By Kris Smith
This morning, the KNES Texas 99.1 Dawn Patrol morning show had a unique opportunity to interview Shawn Todd of Todd Interests – who purchased the land, which was formerly leased to Texas Parks and Wildlife, known as Fairfield Lake State Park.
Todd, who also released a video this week of his beginning stages of construction, which was posted on The NavCo Chronicle’s Facebook page on Wednesday, has held press conferences, meetings, and interviews with Freestone County citizens, elected officials, and media. Last month, a press conference was held on the Freestone County Courthouse lawn, fully supported by citizens and the Freestone County Commissioner’s Court.
TPWD Commission Chairman ‘Beaver’ Aplin, who is still making decisions for the department 6 months after his appointed term has expired, has gone silent since his OP/ED that was published in the Dallas Morning News in late June. During the interview, KNES Program Director and legendary DJ Buzz Russell stated, “This is not a State Park issue anymore. It is a land rights issue.”
Other members of the Freestone County community believe the same way. Landowner Sid Fryer, who owns a 6-generation ranch just one property over from the lake, spoke with NavCo Publisher Kris Smith recently, saying, “If they use Eminent Domain there, what is to stop them from using it to steal mine or anyone else’s property in the county.”
Many Freestone County citizens believe the use of Eminent Domain will open a Pandora’s Box of other government and non-government agencies to essentially ‘steal’ land, i.e., the High-Speed Rail, among others. Freestone County Commissioner Clyde Ridge stated, “I am in favor of the park; however, I am not in favor of the process of using Eminent Domain.”
Todd also stated, “Aplin has a fiduciary duty as an appointed Chairman of the TPWD Commission to all of the State of Texas, and that includes the citizens.” During his four-year initial term of appointment, Aplin appropriated minimal funds for land purchases. Since June, Aplin has requested and has appropriated $125,000,000.00 in funds for the purchase of land by ‘willing sellers’.
Shawn Todd stated, “We are certainly not a willing seller.”
Freestone County citizens, like businessman and landowner Barry Capps, owner of Capps Hardware Store, have expressed disinterest in the use of Eminent Domain in Freestone County. “We all wanted to save the park, but when your elected officials vote no, that should be the end of it.” Capps continued, “The simple solution is for TPWD to use the more than 12,000 acres they already own in Freestone County. Shawn Todd bought the land fair and square. He can put in a pig farm if he wants to.”
A response letter was received by Freestone County Commissioners on July 21, 2023, exactly one month after the commissioner’s court sent their letter expressing the citizens disinterest. In the letter, TPWD Executive Director David Yoskowitz included many discrepancies and half-truths according to Commissioner Lane. The report of 80,000 visitors to Fairfield Lake State Park has not been verified and many citizens do not believe that number to be accurate.
Shawn Todd further issued an invitation to Chairman Aplin – “I’ll meet him anywhere he wants to meet to have a conversation. Let the truth and transparency come forward.” Todd has already utilized contractors throughout Freestone County and has begun the construction on the proposed golf course, infrastructure and roadways leading into the ‘Freestone Club’ gated community.
A TPW Commission meeting at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin is scheduled for August 23-24, 2023 and the public is encouraged to attend and voice their concerns in person.