*TLDR: Short backstory for what I’m talking about. Energy company created Fairfield Lake for cooling water for its power plant back in late 1960s. Early 1970s, they asked the state to put a state park in on part of the land. State leased the land for ‘free’ (re: yes, monetarily free to landowner but also consider the millions in infrastructure and staff put in by the state, but also the repercussions for the plant to pollute, tax incentives, etc, etc…so very much tit for tat here…) for 50 years. Energy company went bankrupt in mid 2010s, closed plant in 2018, decided to sell off portion of their property, 5000 acres including the state park. Would not negotiate with the state to sell only the park to the state, would not negotiate on price. Also turned down two other entities in the process who would let the state park stay before the new developer came in 2022 (conveniently also owns the building the energy company rents in Dallas) and started negotiations. This is the shortest synopsis possible without going into more intricacies, of which there are many.*
My blog every day goal for December was knocked off its feet on Tuesday when the news came that Texas Parks and Wildlife had decided to stop pursuing eminent domain for the Fairfield Lake State Park property. There was one step left, appealing the egregious valuation set by the clearly biased eminent domain commission in November (two realtors, one banker, all with reasons to benefit from a huge billion dollar development going in on the property…but that’s only the tip of the iceberg). I spent most of Tuesday in a bit of a daze, though I knew it was likely over back in November when we heard that somehow a property bought for $103 million in June, BELOW the $110 million asking price, was somehow now valued at $418.3 million in November. Make it make sense! Nevertheless, the state has decided not to throw more money at the project, not only because $418 million is out of the scope the legislature gave them and is um, absurd, but also likely because the property is already badly damaged, an intentional action on the part of the new landowner despite the state and AG asking for them to not doing anything as it was clear the state was going to pursue condemnation of this from the beginning.
I’ll be blunt. It’s completely fucked up on all levels. Do you go back and blame the legislature from decades ago for perpetually underfunding the agency and stalling on new park lands for the last three decades or do you also blame the local agencies at the city and county level for not even putting up a fight when they knew this was going to happen in their own backyard? Do you blame the current governor or the two previous ones? Why not all? Do you blame TPWD for not announcing to the world in very blatant terms what is going to happen to the park in 2019 or 2020 so the legislature can allocate money and negotiate with the energy company? Do you also blame the new landowner/developer for not having any kind of land ethics for building “3rd and 4th homes” and a golf course on what was once a beloved state park? Again, ALL LEVELS.
I wanted to put up a pretty photo today but I’m still listless and angry. Many of us have dedicated a lot of effort to pushing this forward, something I never intended to be doing or saw myself in February this year still doing in December. Yet, here I am.
I’ll share a few videos from the last week with Brett Shipp of Spectrum News. I was interviewed in two of them and Dennis Walsh, former FLSP park manager and advocate, also spoke.
And I put together the videos I received from TPWD via Open Records into one 16 minute video. These are from the Phase 1 survey they were able to conduct in late August/early September when they were filing their petition in court for eminent domain. So, months ago and more things have been damaged out there. But now, it doesn’t really matter because the state gave up.
And instead of blogging yesterday, I wrote this over at On Texas Nature.
Tomorrow: pretty pictures.