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Cong. Hall leads effort to reopen Lake Fannin
By Allen Rich
May 20, 2014
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Bonham -- For the second time in recent history, the Forest Service has locked the gate to Lake Fannin, essentially blocking public access to one of the most scenic areas in North Texas, but perhaps this time Fannin County has a friend in the fight.

Congressman Ralph Hall plans to introduce legislation that would transfer ownership of the approximately 1,900-acre Lake Fannin Complex to Fannin County. That was the message delivered to Fannin County Commissioners Court Monday morning by Jessica Carter, a representative of Cong. Hall's Office and the oldest daughter of Fannin County Judge Spanky Carter.

Jessica Carter addresses Fannin County Commissioners Court.

"Conveying this historic site to local control is an ongoing issue and Congressman Hall continues to work diligently to ensure the transfer is completed," said Miss Carter.

She went on to point out that closing the gate to Lake Fannin not only allows the historic structures to fall into disrepair, as was the case in the '80s when public access was denied, this also creates a dangerous situation because no one is maintaining the dam.  As trees grow on the earthen dam of the 75-acre lake, roots will eventually damage the dam's structural integrity.

Lake Fannin

Fannin County Judge Spanky Carter was in Washington, D.C. recently to discuss the future of Lake Fannin Complex.  Judge Carter met with Congressman Hall, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, the Subcommittee on Natural Resources and representatives of the Forest Service.

Now that Congressman Hall's office is fully engaged in this project, suddenly there seems to be an increased awareness of this unfortunate dilemma that has dragged on for more than a year.

While in Washington, Judge Carter asked one of the Forest Service representatives if he knew about the problem at Lake Fannin and was told, "As of about five hours ago, we do." 

The irony is that when the Forest Service reps attend a meeting at Congressman Hall's office in Washington, D.C., they are in the Sam Rayburn Building.  Lake Fannin Complex is also an important part of Speaker Rayburn's legacy, although the Forest Service has once again locked the gate to this historic site that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

"We're not going to stop until we get this job done," Judge Carter stated in commissioners court Monday. "The Forest Service tried to relinquish control of only 197 acres, but that's not going to happen. They don't have any use for it, or they wouldn't have locked the gate. We are fortunate to have Congressman Hall involved.  I appreciate him.  He is a great asset to Fannin County."

Lake Fannin was constructed in the late 1930s under the auspices of the Rural Resettlement act and was the largest RRA project of its kind in the nation at the time. From the early '40s to the early '60s, Lake Fannin was a popular destination for North Texans in search of outdoor recreation. 

Then, in 1980, a gate was installed to prevent public access to the historic complex.  Not surprisingly, all of the structures rapidly deteriorated during the next two decades.

A cabin after a long period of neglect.

The situation began improving when the Forest Service allowed a group of local volunteers to begin renovating the complex in 1998.

Lake Fannin Volunteers restored four cabins, the historic Lake Fannin Lodge, the bathhouse, the caretaker's cabin and dozens of campsites.

A cabin being restored by volunteers.

Then, in late April 2013 the Forest Service locked the gate and, once again, denied public access.

An event is planned for June that should increase public awareness of the stalemate at Lake Fannin as well as hopefully raise money to continue restoring the historic site.

The "Save Lake Fannin" fundraiser is slated for June 21 in downtown Ivanhoe with Chris Knight as the headliner.

Jessica Carter visits with Gabe Parker, president of Lake Fannin Volunteers.