November President’s Report

Senator Watson Presents SEP Fund Check to FBSP for Bypass Tunnel

Last month, I reported on the long series of successes FBSP achieved this year in cleaning the Pool, raising money, engaging the community, and having fun.  This month, I have a less inspiring report to make on the work city staff has done toward completing the short-term projects of the Barton Springs Master Plan.  Progress has been slow.

At the end of 2009, we published a timeline for some seventeen short-term projects for improvements to the Pool and surroundings.  These are projects that City Council approved and funded in 2007.  Our goal was to see every one of the projects completed or at least under contract by the end of 2010.

We were increasingly concerned that after more than two years not a single project had been completed.  In fact, very few had even been started.  Now, with another year past, the situation is a little better.

To be sure,  the deck is stacked against ever doing anything.  Each project requires cooperation between two or three city departments, public input, review by a special committee and several city boards and commissions, staff contract review,  one or more votes by the City Council, and approval by one or more state and federal agencies.  It’s an arduous gauntlet to run once.  To run it fifteen or twenty times, concurrently, is a huge effort.

Members of FBSP and the Barton Springs Plan Coordinating Committee have been actively involved, every step of the way, testifying before committees, boards, commissions, council, and agencies.  We’ve also paid visits to staff members, consultants, council members, legislators, and others.  We’ve published several comment memos on various projects.  Against the odds, we’ve nudged the projects forward.

Quick Dips

Renovation of the bathhouse roof

Bathhouse Phase One. This has been a bright spot.  The project, which includes roof replacement and upgrading various mechanical systems, is almost complete.

Flood Debris Removal. Despite some obstacles, removal of the flood debris, nicknamed the ‘gravel bar,’ is close to action.  If the Corps of Engineers completes their review by mid-December, as promised, the project will start in January and be finished in time for Spring Cleaning in late February.

General grounds improvements. Though the schedule has been slipping, this project is into the design and review stage.  Latest estimate is to begin construction in the last half of next year.

Bypass tunnel. This project was sent back to go early this year by a course change, and it has still not regained the ground lost.  However, the inlet grate and outlet gate, for which FBSP secured state funding, can move forward independently.

For a brief summary of all the short-term projects, click here.

October President’s Report

Time to reflect on a year of challenge and achievement

by Robin Cravey

As the summer season fades, and we look forward to the fall and winter, it’s a good time to look back and take stock.  From Spring Cleaning in February through our Flash Flood Rapid Response, the year has been busy and exciting for FBSP.

Spring Cleaning 2006 was the first organized event for us, back when we called ourselves the Barton Springs Swimmers Club.  It still kicks off the year for us, and was led this year by Jonathan Beall.

The Barton Springs Treeathlon in April, organized by Mike Cannatti, was a new event on our calendar this year.  It was our first real fundraiser, and brought in $7,500 for tree planting and maintenance at the pool.

Our Picnic by the Pool in June was another new event for us, led by Gary Beyer and Emma Cravey.  This event was a fun replacement for our former Annual Meeting.

Council Cleans the Pool Day again blazed in August, led by Tom Weber.   In addition to Mayor Lee Leffingwell, the city council, and other elected officials, we were honored to have Senator Kirk Watson present, and grateful to have him present FBSP with a check for $300,000 to help fund repairs to the bypass tunnel.

The flash flood in September gave us a chance to mobilize scores of volunteers, helped by the publicity generated by Chasity Keen Larios.

Our first-ever Fall Social is scheduled for November, with much organizing effort by Jesse Malone.  There we’ll recall the year with members and friends.

Through it all we rely on the steady accounting of Maria Weber and the versatile and enthusiastic work of Mary Yarrington.

Quick Dips

Fall social. The fall social will give everyone a chance to trade stories about the year past, and catch up with friends you last saw during the summer.  If you’ve earned a tee shirt, you can pick it up.  We’ll present more rewards for our star volunteers  We’ll have a slide show with lots of photos, and a surprise musical guest.

Fall board retreat. Every spring we hold a day-long board retreat to map out our goals for the year.  This year, we’ll also hold a half-day fall retreat to look back and see how we did.

Looking ahead. In December and January we’ll be planning ahead for the Spring Cleaning and starting the whole cycle again.  Our calendar this year was well-paced and effective, but we’ll no doubt have a few new surprises in the coming year.  And it’s all done by a hard-working all-volunteer board and members.  Not a single paid staff member.  Darn good!

September President’s Report

Flash flood rapid response

mobilizes volunteer cleanup

by Robin Cravey

Hurricane or tropical storm? Either way, Hermine sent a major flood into Barton Springs Pool. The flood washed in huge volumes of gravel, debris, and silt. Naturally, FBSP went into action.

Service Director Jonathan Beall was out of town, so it fell to me to organize and lead the effort. I worked with Pool Manager Wayne Simmons to schedule the cleanup. For safety reasons, he wanted hold it on Wednesday, September 15th.

FBSP volunteers cleaning up after Hermine

Chasity Larios got the word out to our members, the press, and the public, and Emma Cravey rounded up food for the volunteers. Steve Barnick, Emma, Gary Beyer, and Tom Weber volunteered to be shift leaders.

We had a great volunteer turnout. For once, we had more volunteers than we could put to work. Groups who volunteered included American Youth Works and T-3 Training, Tri-Zones Training, Gilbert’s Gazelles, Jack & Adams, Rogue Running, Social Cycling Austin, Team in Training, and Carmen Troncoso Running. Several news stations put out the call, includng Fox 7, KVUE, News 8, and KXAN. More than a hundred responded, and we were able to put about six dozen to work. We might have done more, but the staff was overwhelmed by the turnout.

We got a lot done. We shoveled up the gravel that was deposited outside the upstream dam; scrubbed the shallow end floor, pushed sediment out of the sagittaria plants growing along the ‘beach’ area, aerated the soil on the south hillside, scrubbed handrails, and more.

There’s still more to do, and we have our regularly scheduled cleaning coming up October 7. Sign up by emailing service @

FBSP volunteers cleaning up after Hermine

Quick Dips

Help wanted. Hardworking pool stewardship organization seeking new communications director. Must be talented, energetic, and willing to work long hours without pay. Email appllication to president @

Gravel bar. Major flood debris will be removed from the Pool in November. The City Council approved the contract unanimously. The Pool will be closed for most of November, though Deep Eddy wll be open for extended hours. After the removal of the gravel and debris, cleaning the Pool will be much more effective.

Bypass tunnel. Members of the FBSP board and the Barton Springs Plan Coordinating Committee met recently with Watershed Director Victoria Li and staff to discuss the problems with the bypass tunnel repair effort. Staff has promised a written response soon.

August 2010 President’s Report

Friends receive $300,000 check at Council Cleans the Pool Day

by Robin Cravey

Senator Kirk Watson along with Mayor Lee Leffingwell present at check for $300,000 to FBSP

Senator Kirk Watson was the new man at the Fifth Annual Council Cleans the Pool Day in August.  Mayor Lee Leffingwell, all the members of the Austin City Council, Representative Donna Howard, and Commissioner Karen Huber all returned for another grand day.

Kirk, a former mayor of Austin, was there to present the Friends with a check for $300,000.  The money came from a special program at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and will be used to help pay for the improvements to the bypass tunnel.  With Kirk’s help and the participation of Charlie McCabe at the Austin Parks Foundation, we applied for the funds and received them.  When the city actually does the work on the bypass tunnel, we will pass the money through to them.

Lee improved the occasion by challenging the staff to get cracking on the bypass tunnel work.  His enthusiastic support of the Pool and the master plan is inspiring.  Besides accepting the check on behalf of the city, he also presented the Friends with a half dozen brooms on behalf of the council.

Kirk was also there to clean the Pool.  He came in his trunks, and after the presentation, he waded down into the water and pushed a broom with the broom brigade.  Also in the brigade with him were Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and Councilmembers Chris Riley and Laura Morrison.  With all our new brooms, and our wealth of volunteers, we had two broom brigades working in the first shift.

Councilmember Sheryl Cole is such a cutup!  Last year, in a playful moment, she dunked Mike Martinez.  This year, Sheryl tried to push Kirk into the Pool, but he outmaneuvered her and tossed her into the water!

Randi Shade came early, and had to leave before the presentation.  Bill Spelman arrived after the presentation, but did get in the pool and work with one of the buffers.

Council Cleans the Pool Day just grows every year.  We began it in 2006 as a way to bring the council members down to let them see first hand what it takes to keep the pool clean, and what the pool needs.  It’s still about that, but it takes on new dimensions each year.  We never even thought about inviting a state legislator, but the next year Donna Howard came on her own initiative to show her support.  Then Commissioner Karen Huber.  This year Senator Kirk Watson (with a big fat check).  I think the real reason is that word is getting around that cleaning the Pool is fun and satisfying.

Continue reading “August 2010 President’s Report”

July President’s Report

by Robin Cravey

I had the opportunity to tour the Zilker Park maintenance barn recently. Emily Little and I asked for the tour. The maintenance barn is proposed to be the new location for the Splash! education center, and it would be a good one.

Maintenance barn at Barton Springs Pool

Emily is an architect, a member of the Austin Heritage Society, and a member of the Barton Springs Plan Coordinating Committee. Naturally, she has a special interest in the buildings, and their historic nature. She is a leader in the effort to move the pool entrance back to the rotunda where it belongs.

Moving the entrance back to the rotunda will necessarily take some space away from the existing Splash classrooms. The classrooms are on the opposite side of the rotunda from the Splash Exhibit. They’re two dingy little rooms where visiting students learn about nature.

The maintenance barn is an old quonset hut enclosed in a fenced compound near the playground. The compound contains gas tanks and equipment in open sheds. One look is enough to tell you that this mechanical facility is a little too close to Barton Creek. Moving the compound has been planned for years, and the staff is close to taking bids on the project.

Staffers John McKesson, Gary Gregson, and Clark Hancock conducted the tour. Clark is the director of the Splash Exhibit and classrooms. He sees the move as an opportunity to expand and improve the education facility.

It will be great to tear down the tall fence around the compound and turn that into a people place again. Of course, it will also take some serious cleanup to remove the residue of decades of equipment repair and other maintenance activities. But, envision young kids skipping down from that area to the creek, then climbing back with their samples to examine.

Back at the bathhouse, envision three or five cashiers at admission windows at the rotunda, with short lines or no waiting. Swimmers will enter through the center again, as was intended. And soon, when the major bathhouse renovation is done, we’ll have a visitor center. It’s a lot to look forward to, and to work for. Continue reading “July President’s Report”

June President’s Report

A picnic at Barton Springs Pool on a hot summer day

by Robin Cravey

 We work hard; we play hard; and we relax hard.  Saturday, June 19, was a time for some hard relaxing for the Friends.  Thanks to organizer Gary Beyer, the relaxing was easy. 

We set up the ol’ hospitality tent at the picnic grounds just outside the fence, and started the picnic with coffee and palaver with the board.  Coffee was courtesy of Austin Java.  New director Jesse Malone signed up members and made sure folks got their tee shirts. 

After some talk, a group of folks formed up to take a tour of the grounds with landscape architect Brad Burns.  We were honored to have former mayor Frank Cooksey take the tour with us.  The tour stopped at the glass rotunda, tree court, north grounds, south grounds, and accessible trail sites to talk about proposed improvements. 

By the time the tour got back to the picnic, grillmaster Jonathan Beall was rolling the hot dogs onto a platter.  We settled in to chow down.  Hot dogs and limeade! 

We presented the $7,500 check for proceeds from the Treeathlon to Ralph Webster, who accepted on behalf of the the Austin Parks Foundation.  The money will be dedicated to Barton Springs trees.  Pool Manager Wayne Simmons was also on hand for the festivities. 

We presented awards—certificates and pool passes— to six of our star volunteers.  First up was Nancy McCandless, one of the original three founders of the Friends and still a volunteer.  Tom Weber presented awards to Molly Bean and Steve Barnick for excellence in advocacy.  Jonathan Beall presented service awards to Jonathan Markoff, Mike Meier, and Booth O’Quinn.  We are grateful to have these and many other worthy volunteers. 

A tour of the grounds with landscape architect Brad Burns. 

A tour of the grounds with landscape architect Brad Burns.
A tour of the grounds with landscape architect Brad Burns.

  Emma Cravey drew tickets from the hat to present coupons from Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que and P.Terry’s Burgers to over a dozen lucky picnickers. 

The picnic closed with a round of Barton Springs Stories.  One by one picnickers came up to the microphone and told their favorite Barton Springs story.  Of course there were some fish (and turtle and eel!) stories. 

Quick Dips 

Our next major event will be “Council Cleans the Pool Day” on August 12.  It will be a good chance to push a broom with the mayor, councilmembers, and other elected officials, including Senator Kirk Watson!  What’s more, we will be able to drain the pool for this cleaning.  See the pool like you’ve never seen it before! 

Look for us at the Barton Hills Fourth of July Parade.  We’ll have a float in the parade, and the hospitality tent at the picnic.  Continue reading “June President’s Report”