Benefit planned for Lake Fannin as 80th anniversary of historic campsite approaches
By Allen Rich
Mar 10, 2018
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Ivanhoe -- How should we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the official opening of Lake Fannin on July 4, 1938, as well as the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Homestead Winery in Ivanhoe?

How about a special celebration to commemorate both of those milestones, while also benefiting Lake Fannin! This fundraiser is slated for the third Saturday in June.

That was just one of the announcements that came out of the recent meeting of Lake Fannin Volunteers, a group that is certainly in the spotlight now that anticipation is building over the fate of Lake Fannin, a historic campsite that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, yet has been closed to the public since 2013.

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.

Then, in April 2013, the Forest Service locked the gates on one of the most scenic campsites in the county.

Gabe Parker (left) presides over the recent meeting of Lake Fannin Volunteers.

After reaching an agreement with the Forest Service on February 15, 2018, Lake Fannin Volunteers will now have limited access to begin clearing the dam and mowing around the historic lodge. By all accounts, the local volunteers have a proven track record of managing this historic campsite that opened July 4, 1938.  In addition to restoring the lodge, four cabins and caretakers house, Lake Fannin Volunteers restored 40 primitive campsites, constructed a five-mile bike/hike trail and managed to put $9,000 in the bank.

"We know how to do it," 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."

This is the longest bridge constructed along the five-mile mountain bike trail.

Mr. Parker is President of Lake Fannin Volunteers and brimming with optimism that this important part of the county's heritage will soon be returned to local ownership.

"If you are not already excited, it's time to get excited," Parker remarked, "because now the issues are being addressed at the highest level of the Forest Service. I believe Congressman [John] Ratcliffe knows this is an issue that has to be resolved. The county judge and our county commissioners have been very supportive. This is probably the most optimistic I've been since they closed the gate."

Fannin County Judge Spanky Carter has made three trips to Washington D.C. in an effort to return Lake Fannin to local control and allow public access; negotiations continue as representatives of Fannin County, the Forest Service and the federal government try to reach an agreement.

Parker tempers his optimism with a bit of caution.

"This is a window and it can shut as fast as it has opened," he warned.

In the meantime, Lake Fannin Volunteers are developing a plan that would allow the best use of resources by residents and local organizations.

With the 80th anniversary of the official opening of Lake Fannin coming up July 4, 2018 and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Homestead Winery in Ivanhoe also on the horizon, a benefit for Lake Fannin has been slated for the third Saturday in June.  Plans call for live music and a goat roast.

Interested sponsors should contact Lake Fannin Volunteers and more details will be announced in the weeks ahead.

At a July 2007 meeting of the Friends of Lake Fannin, Gabe Parker holds the National Registry of Historic Places plaque.

One of the historic cabins at Lake Fannin that has been restored by local volunteers.

The five-mile hiking/biking trail

photos by Allen Rich