Environmental Board Approves Grounds Improvements!

THANK YOU to everyone who emailed the Environmental Board and came to the meeting last night! After extensive presentations from staff to answer questions posed at the last meeting, the Board approved the amendments and variances necessary to do the improvement work at the pool, with a few directions to staff (for example, not to increase impervious cover).

Please join us at the Planning Commission next Tuesday, then it will be on to the City Council on March 28! Stay tuned…

July’s Draw-down Pool Cleaning

Service Chair Thomas Schiefer strolls poolside during the cleaning.

Cleaners far and wide, let me be the first to thank all of you who came out to July’s cleaning. It was a special day for all, as we did one of four draw-downs per year of the springs. This is when the city staff opens up the flood gates and lets the pool drain for most of the day. This process reveals numerous beaches and rocks that we all love to clean up and wade through. A big portion of the day was spent in waist deep silt pulling weeds.

Pool managers told us that we got more done in one day than usually gets done in a couple of months. So thank you Benchmark, Tucker Construction and all you other volunteers that came out and got muddy pulling weeds, sweeping rocks, scrubbing railings and getting extreme sunburns! I have heard from numerous sources that the pool looks wonderful after the draw-down, so give yourselves a big pat on the back and smile knowing that your hard work paid off.

Volunteers get dirty in the pool.
See you all next month, September 6th, for the chance to do it all over again. Draw-down not included.
Sincerely,
Thomas Schiefer
FBSP Service Chair
FBSP Vice President Jonathan Beall cleans with the help of young Finneas.

President’s Report

Thanks for the Memories

by Robin Cravey

Robin joins the broom line

Recently, I resigned as president of Friends of Barton Springs Pool.  This marks a turning point for me, and for FBSP.  The work goes on.

I launched FBSP almost six years ago to rescue the pool from neglect.  Devoting all my spare time and a good part of my work week to the pool was not in my personal plans, but I saw the need and I answered.  While sometimes frustrating, the work was tremendously enjoyable.  I made a lot of friends, learned a lot about the pool, got in the water a lot, and met with interesting people in some of the finest beer joints in town.

I took a sabbatical from FBSP in 2008 to run for office.  That was even more intense.  Steve Barnick served as president during that period, and he is now my ideal for what an ex-president of FBSP should be.

My personal pattern, through the years, has been to move from thought to action, thought to action.  The past six years have given me a pretty strong dose of action, and I’m more than ready for some contemplation.  Besides, my family is more than ready for me to give them some of the attention they deserve.

A friend once asked me how long I would stay as president, and I said: until FBSP is strong enough that I can set it free.  It’s time.  The Friends is well-established.

Our board is filled with strong and effective leaders who know how to get things done.  We have built up a strong tradition of stewardship and voluntarism.  We’ve developed a profound understanding of the springs and the pool.  I look forward to watching the board take the organization to the next level.

The Master Plan projects continue their slow progress, and while many may give their input, the Friends bring a consistency, preparedness, and positive can-do attitude that keeps things moving.   When some can see only problems, the Friends keep our calm and our eye on the goal.  We have a vision bright and clear.

The birth of FBSP in 2006

The work is important.  Those who came before us harnessed this wonder of nature for our enjoyment.  Yet it is a dynamic place.  Nature is powerful, and our puny man-made structures require constant maintenance.  Moreover, the facilities surrounding this place ought to be of a beauty to complement the natural inspiration.

It’s up to us to carry on the work.  Each of us can do our part.  Our part is not just to enjoy this wonderful place.  We can’t simply be heirs of the past.  We must also be benefactors of the future.

For most of the past six years, I’ve done my part as well as I could.  Now, I’m stepping aside.  Other members of the board are stepping up, and others are moving up to the board.  I’m proud to see that.  We always need new energy.  To those of you who hear the call, please answer.
Continue reading “President’s Report”

City of Austin Seeks New Permit for Salamanders at Barton Springs Pool

The City of Austin must have an approved permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in order to operate and use Barton Springs Pool. The permit was first issued in 1998 for a fifteen year term, after the FWS listed the Barton Springs Salamander as an endangered species. The permit allows for the “incidental take” of salamanders, meaning some minor or incidental harassment, threat, or loss to these spring dwelling amphibians can occur. The permit specifies allowable pool operations, maintenance, cleaning, and water management – ensuring all practices can minimize or eliminate threats.

The permit expires in 2013 and the city is seeking a replacement permit of twenty years duration that will also addresses the likely listing of the Austin Blind Salamander. In the permitting process, the City seeks input from the public on any permit changes, concerns, or other issues that are important and germane. Already, the Friends of Barton Springs Pool have offered testimony at briefings discussed before the Austin Environmental Board and Parks/Recreation Board. The city expects to have a public input meeting and open house at the pool in October, 2011.

The special conditions and requirements and prohibitions in the permit are very significant, in that the permit controls and restricts pool cleaning and maintenance techniques that are allowable in or near salamander habitat. In addition to day-to-day routines, short and long term projects for repair and restoration near salamander habitat are identified in the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan. The Friends are discussing these issues with the City staff, seeking a future permit that offers the flexibility to allow for effective pool cleaning and to avoid conflicts with the upcoming Master Plan projects. For example, the plan identifies restoration activities for Eliza Springs, Sunken Gardens, and their spring outlets flowing into Barton Creek. The Friends trust that the City and FWS can establish conditions and procedures that protect and enhance the salamander habitat, promote their populations, and yet still allow for continued use of the pool by the recreating public.

Please join us to participate in this comment period. Provide your thoughts. Attend the open house. Read more information that the Watershed Protection Department has posted at the following link:

www.cityofaustin.org/watershed/salamander_guidelines

By Tom Weber
Advocacy Director, FBSP

Ladies’ Dressing Room is Looking Good!

If you’ve used the women’s changing room lately, you may have noticed some improvements!

Thanks to the hard work of FBSP volunteers, Board members Mary Yarrington and Jonathan Beall, and some very generous sponsors, the ladies’ room is looking better than ever.  The beautification of the women’s room has been taking place over many months, but new plants and pottery make it the rival of the men’s room when it comes to vegetative beauty.

Thank you to Barton Springs Nursery for the donation of some beautiful pots, and to Geo Growers for donating potting soil for the new plants to live in.

If you would like to check out the new plant life for yourself, while pitching in to maintain it, you can always volunteer at the next FBSP pool cleaning, to take place Thursday, September 1st!  Email Jonathan at service@friendsofbartonspringspool.org to sign up.

Come Support the Master Plan!

Thursday, August 25, head on down to City Hall at 10:00 a.m. to cheer on the Austin City Council’s resolution in support of the Master Plan!  Sponsored by Councilmembers Mike Martinez and Chris Riley and Mayor Lee Leffingwell, the resolution (Item 70 on the consent agenda) will reaffirm the Council’s support for the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan and direct the City Manager to complete projects underway in a timely manner.  It will also direct him to consider the Master Plan for funding in the next bond election.

FBSP President Robin Cravey will speak in support of the resolution, and other members of the FBSP Board will attend as well.  We hope you can also attend to show support for the Pool and the Master Plan!