SocraticGadfly: TPWD: Another Tex-ass state agency not run right

March 07, 2023

TPWD: Another Tex-ass state agency not run right

I had no idea there were 15 Texas state parks on rented private land, and I suspect I'm not alone. What a stupid idea. With that number about to be reduced to 14 with the land of Fairfield Lake State Park being sold to a developer, the Lege should tell TPWD to get out of this, and to not spend a dime on any more improvements to private sites until it does get out of this. At Fairfield Lake? Over the past 50-plus years, they've pounded $76 million into this. Worse, most of these sites appear to be on former electric utility coal-fired plant generation sites, which means climate change has been subsidized by the state.

Worse yet? Vistra (successor to Texas Utilities) gave TPWD an option to buy Fairfield in 2020 when it announced it was terminating the lease and the state made no offer.

Worse yet? Among the 14 remaining parks on private land, rented, are hugely popular sites such as Cedar Hill and Ray Roberts.

Forrest Wilder visited the park for the Monthly, and also further visited the negotiations between Vistra and TPWD, their discussion before the Lege, and related issues.

Update: Too late for my original posting, the Observer weighs in with a longform piece. It goes further into the chaos of negotiations before a possible TPWD purchase died. It also notes that most those other rented state parks have similar situations: built around cooling-water lakes for Vistra power plants, which means, per above, the state of Tex-ass has been subsidizing climate change.

It also notes the added insult of this all going sideways during TPWD's 100th anniversary celebration. As for Senate Legiscritter Angelia Orr's idea of the state forcibly taking it under eminent domain? That dog won't hunt.

There's also the tiny amount of land per capita that Texas has for state parks (combined with relatively little federal recreational land). Fairfield Lake is only about 5 square miles, after all. Even places like the rightly touted Caprock Canyons aren't that big. 

And, few Texans know that the only reason Palo Duro became a state  park as long ago as it did was that FDR's Interior Secretary, Harold Ickes, talked about a national monument from it all the way to Caprock Canyons unless the state did something. Ditto, in the 1960s, Davis Mountains became a state park in part because Guadalupe Mountains became a national park and Interior eyed a third one between it and Big Bend.

And, it's not just that Tex-ass is state-land poor. It's that it doesn't spend much on state parks, and, despite talking the talk about changing that for years, any changes have only been moderate.

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