During the December Webster Parish Police Jury meeting, juror Daniel Thomas announced he and Eric Fletcher are the new owners of Lake Erling, thanks in part to International Paper which donated more than 7,000 acres.
"It is the most beautiful place that you have ever been," said Thomas in the WPPJ meeting. "Almost 13 to 14 years ago, the Game and Fish of Arkansas (Commission) started dealing with the process to take the lake over. The game and fish hadn't gotten it done. In January of last year, International Paper asked Arkansas Game and Fish to sign a letter of intent and they didn't sign it. We had talked to International Paper and told them we had a large interest in the property."
Thomas went on to say that he is developing properties on Eagle View and Eagle's Way on Lake Erling because he has sentimental value for the property.
"We have a personal interest in this lake," Thomas said in a prior interview. "We live here and own property here. We are just like every other property owner on Lake Erling and want it to stay the same."
Lake Erling is located in south Arkansas' Lafayette County and is a man-made lake that was built in the 1950's as a water source for International Paper's Springhill paper mill, which closed more than 30 years ago.
"This lake is a jewel in the southwest part of Arkansas and north Louisiana, albeit only located a mile from the state line," Fletcher said, during an interview at his Shreveport office. "There was a lot of uncertainty as to what was going to happen with the lake."
Thomas and Fletcher are the directors of American Gamebird Research and Development (AGRED) and also property and homeowners on Lake Erling.
In a previous interview, Thomas said he was at the 2012 Game and Fish Commission meeting in Bradley, Arkansas and he and Fletcher wanted the lake to remain a public lake, with a public park so they obtained the lake to prevent changes.
Thomas has environmental and conservation experience. During his career, he has helped ensure his company adheres to ADEQ requirements.
Fletcher, originally from South Africa, grew up on a farm with a focus on environmental conservation. His grandfather founded conservation parks there and now Fletcher carries on.
"This lake - having grown up around birds and ornithologists - is just an amazing place for birds. Right now, it's probably one of the best times of year to see it. I just want to make sure it's conserved and maintained for wildlife and bird life, in particular," Fletcher said in a prior interview.
Thomas and Fletcher will personally fund the upkeep of the lake, however, they would take advantage of the opportunity to subsidize the maintenance expense if presented with the opportunity, as long as the lake is not changed.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will continue to manage fish and wildlife at Lake Erling, according to Fletcher, and keep it open to the public.