Local News
Forest Service: Lake Fannin should be 'put to good use'
By Allen Rich
Feb 28, 2018
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Fannin County, Texas -- Fannin County officials, Congressman John Ratcliffe's director of public policy and the Forest Service all seem to be in agreement that Lake Fannin should be available to the public. The lingering question, however, is can the tentative agreement be finalized while this window of opportunity is open?

Jeff Stoney, District Ranger for the Caddo-LBJ Grasslands, would like to see Lake Fannin "put to good use" and he believes the Forest Service would give its blessing if Congress supports returning the land around Lake Fannin to local control.

"We'd like it to be in the hands of people who can maintain it and manage it," Mr. Stoney stated.

The District Ranger has a staff of 11 to oversee the almost 40,000 acres that currently comprise LBJ Grasslands and Caddo Grasslands.

Fannin County Judge Spanky Carter is negotiating to have the 2,025-acre Lake Fannin complex returned to the people of Fannin County in order to allow a local non-profit group, the Lake Fannin Volunteers, to resume restoration and utilization of the historic campsite.

The Lake Fannin Volunteers managed the lodge and cabins from 2000 until 2013 when the Forest Service cancelled a concession agreement that allowed local volunteers to pay their own way by hosting events or renting the lodge for weddings, reunions and parties.

"We know how to do it," Lake Fannin Volunteers President Gabe Parker said of managing the historic campsite constructed in the mid-1930s by workers employed by the Rural Resettlement Administration. "We've operated in that mode before."

James W. Baker III, director of public policy for U.S. Congressman John Ratcliffe, met with Lake Fannin Volunteers February 15 and stated that his top priority was to assist in the transfer of ownership of the Lake Fannin campground complex to Fannin County. With the Forest Service and Fannin County in agreement regarding the transfer, the ball would seem to be in Congressman Ratcliffe's end of the court.

In the meantime, the Forest Service has agreed to allow limited access to Lake Fannin Volunteers to begin clearing brush and saplings off the dam, as well as mowing around the historic lodge.

This era of improved communication and cooperation between Fannin County and the Forest Service is certainly timely, and not only because the fate of Lake Fannin hangs in the balance.

The role the Forest Service will be even more vital to this area in the near future if the 15,000 acres of mitigation land for Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir is turned over to the Forest Service to manage. Perhaps that could necessitate more employees and an office in the area.

If and when this vast tract of acreage falls under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, Mr. Stoney is aware of the strategic public access that mitigation land at Riverby Ranch would offer to a unique natural resource in Fannin County -- Red River.

"It's the people's land," Stoney said of the mitigation land. "It belongs to all of us."