“One waxes pessimistic? Not so much … There is a pessimism about land which, after it has been with you a long time, becomes merely factual. Men increase; country suffers. Though I sign up with organizations that oppose the process, I sign without great hope.… Islands of wildlife and native flora may be saved, as they should be, but the big, sloppy, rich, teeming spraddle will go. It always has.”
― John Graves, Goodbye to a River: A Narrative
We had been planning to get a hike in last weekend but wasn’t sure where we would go. Then Chris came to me and said we should make the 2.5 hour trek up to Fairfield Lake State Park one last time. Duh, why hadn’t I thought of that? They raised entrance limits and we secured our pass online and decided to get a hotel in Fairfield on Friday night so we could get into the park very early, before the crowds arrived. I’ve never seen a huge line in an east Texas state park, those have been reserved for a few of the Hill Country parks like Garner or Enchanted Rock, but with the publicity about the park over the last six weeks I knew it would be busy, plus it was the last weekend it was to be open to the public.
The park office was still closed when we drove through the entrance gates at 7:15 am on Saturday morning. Skies were grey, it was in the 40s, so, not the most inspiring weather to be hiking in. We beelined it for the Nature Trail at the far north end of the park as this is a popular area and with limited parking. We already figured the state park would be very lenient about people parking on the grass or side of the road as that’s not something they usually permit. Even the boat ramp was pretty busy already at that early morning, but the trailhead wasn’t too busy yet, only two car. We hiked most of the Nature Trail in relative silence, first venturing to a book walk the park had set up on a small trail near the Nature Trail (the Nature Trail is about 2 miles) so we read a children’s story about how cool spiders actually are that was posted on a board staked into the ground every hundred feet or so. It was nice to walk at a leisurely pace with no reason to hurry. We were here to say goodbye and see everything we could before it was gone.
By the time we got back to the trailhead the parking area had gotten much busier and we knew it was going to be really crowded throughout the day. From there we drove by the bathroom for a pitstop and then by the campsite we’d had last November. I’d hoped we could pull in and park and walk around down by the lake there but there were people camping in the spot. All of the camping loops were open for use except for the water only sites, which was disappointing because that’s where I used to camp with my parents as a kid and I wanted to wander through there once again. The drive through that loop last November will have to suffice for my memories.
Forest wanted to play in the field adjacent to the playground like he did last November so we wandered around there while Forest played and we botanized for iNaturalist. Then we moved down to the Bird Watching Trail and took our time looking for plants there, where we found a large patch of trout lilies, not blooming unfortunately. It was still a bit early for lunch so we stopped in at the Chancellor Union Cemetery to walk around. We found a few rare plants there and luckily this cemetery will not be part of the sale and will still be accessible to the public. Finally, we moved down to the picnic area and swimming area to eat lunch. Chris had wanted to fish but the weather was not great and he was on the fence about fishing. Forest wanted to play down by the dock and so Chris decided to at least try to catch some fish and after about 30 minutes gave up. Forest and I had fun, I did a little drawing of some sycamores and Forest brought up limestone chunks with fossils from the shoreline that had been placed there for erosion/wake control. I also happened to find the rose bluets there! The first time I’ve seen them and a species I’ve been trying to find for a while now. They aren’t nearly as common as the other two bluets in our region, H. micrantha and H. pusilla.
Afterwards, we drove down to another boat ramp around the corner from the picnic area because we hadn’t ventured there before. It was pretty busy with people fishing from the floating dock and kids playing, and also the boat trailer parking was pretty full. Forest wanted to go on the dock but it didn’t look terribly safe with the amount of people on it so we decided to go back down to the dock at the far end and see if we could hang out there for a while. As we left we noticed the line that had been at the entrance to get in when we’d come up to the cemetery had gone down a bit, though all of those people must have gone to the Nature Trail because that area was even busier than when we’d left it a few hours previously. We did end up finding a parking space at the boat ramp, though.
Forest played on the dock with his phragmites fishing pole he’d gotten back at the other dock and we chatted with a fisherman coming in on a boat while his friend went and got the trailer to load the boat onto. He was just as upset about the park being sold off as we all were.
And then we decided that we were as done as we could be. Forest wanted to be home for dinner and with a 2.5 hour drive we needed to leave by mid-afternoon for that to happen. I cried, of course. I’m so mad about the whole situation and I’ll write more about this later, but it has come out that the developer also has interests in the water rights and selling the water back to DFW. I should have known. Selling water back to the cities and building lakes to do it is something Texas has been doing for more than 60 years.
And now the park is closed to the public and we wait and see what ultimately happens over the next 90 days.