FAIRFIELD, Texas — Efforts to save Fairfield Lake State Park took an apparent step in the right direction Thursday, as state park officials gave approval to buy the land the park sits on, officials announced.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to authorize the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to "take all necessary steps to purchase" around 5,000 acres in Freestone County, including Fairfield Lake State Park.
The total amount of funding approved by the commission was not announced in a release Thursday, but a private developer had agreed to buy the land for around $110 million earlier this year.
"This action reinforces the continued commitment and support of state leadership, TPW Commission and TPWD to saving the park while adding new park land for all Texans now and in the future," the TPWD announced in a statement.
The TPWD commission also discussed scheduling a meeting in June "to explore additional legal options to save" the park.
The park had operated on a 50-year lease in Freestone County, but the lease expired this year and the state's bid to buy the park fell short. Todd Interests, a Dallas-area private development group, was expected to to finalize a purchase of the property for around $110 million.
The park closed in February but temporarily reopened for day-use in March, while state officials worked on a long-term solution to keep the park open.
The park was already in the process of being decommissioned, TPWD officials said, but it developed a plan for a temporary reopening on March 14 after a meeting of the Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
A Vistra spokesperson said the company has leased the land to the state at no cost and gave the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department a two-year notice that it intended to terminate the lease effective October 2020. The spokesperson said Vistra encouraged the state to submit a bid to buy the entire property — but the state did not submit a bid.
The state leased the 1,460-acre park from Texas Utilities in 1971-1972 and opened it in 1976, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.