Board Member Profile: Thomas Schiefer

New Service Chair Thomas Schiefer, center, with Advocacy Chair Tom Weber, left, and an FBSP member
New Service Chair Thomas Schiefer, center, with Advocacy Chair Tom Weber, left, and an FBSP member

Meet our newest board member, Thomas Schiefer!  Thomas has taken over as Service Chair from dedicated board member Jonathan Beall, who is now Vice President.

Why did you join the Friends of Barton Springs Pool?

I always like to be an active participant in the community that I live in. Barton Springs being both the most special place in Austin as well as the most under attack from numerous factions makes FBSP a perfect fit for getting involved in issues I care about in the community.

What do you do during the day?

I run a not-for-profit teen radio program called Youth Spin. It is a program for teens from all over Austin who come together to make quality radio programming about music, politics, school and teen issues as a whole. We have our live show every Friday on KOOP 91.7FM at 6:00 to 7:00pm.

What does Barton Springs Pool mean to you?

Everything. Bikes rides, warm summer nights, childhood, tans, snorkeling, and Austin.

Favorite local band or artist?

Meghann Rosales…she does nail art!

Favorite moment volunteering for FBSP?0

When there were just a few of us sweeping in the water a baby snapping turtle swam by, giving us a really special show. You just do not see that when there are lots of people there.

Describe your first experience at Barton Springs Pool…

I cannot remember, but I bet it felt amazing, just like it does today.

How long have you been a member of FBSP?

I joined FBSP this summer 2011.

Besides BSP, where is your favorite hangout in Austin?

The French Legation. I love quaint things.

Favorite author?

James Baldwin, Larry McMurtry, Edward Abbey

Beer of choice?

I do not drink beer. I never liked the taste…please do not judge.

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.
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Council Cleans the Pool Day 2011

Council Cleans the Pool Day 2011 was a huge success thanks to all of our volunteers, the E corp from American Youthworks, our sponsors, city staff and city councilmembers!  We had over 90 volunteers sign in for a total of over 300 hours of pool cleaning bliss.  Many, many volunteers stayed for 4, 6 and even 8 hour shifts!  Fully motivated with lots of coffee and breakfast tacos, it was definitely the most successful morning we have every seen on the Zen-pushbrooming conga line.  We swept through six full passes before noon and the pool shallow end was so clean, I was worried we might not have anything left for all the afternoon volunteers to do!  Few from the morning crew wanted to return to their real jobs as they were so impressed with the immediate sparkling impact they could see from the work they had already done in the morning.

Alas, a slight breeze picked up around lunchtime, breaking away masses of algae from other areas of the pool and threatened to spoil the fruits of our morning’s labours.  And then the afternoon algae calvary arrived, fueled by pizza, lots and lots of pizza.  The algae, of course, didn’t stand a chance.
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President’s Report

Council reaffirms Master Plan

by Robin Cravey

Master Plan session, 2007

The City Council reaffirmed it support of the Barton Springs Master Plan at their August 25th meeting.  The vote was unanimous.  And Mayor Lee Leffingwell made a strong statement that the short-term projects in the plan should move forward without further delay.  Right on!

I mean really, what is a plan for?  Some people think a plan is a substitute for actually working, a way to keep people talking until they run out of energy.  Some think it is a beautiful work of art that should be given a prominent place on a coffee table or a line in a resumé.  I don’t.  I think a plan is blueprint for action.

When the board members of Friends of Barton Springs Pool made the rounds of council offices in 2006, we wanted something done.  We were asking the council to end the long-shameful neglect of the pool, take care of the long-deferred maintenance, and perform the upgrades that the pool so clearly needed to meet the ever-increasing demand on facilities.

We had a list of projects that we considered important.  We came up with this list of projects by talking with a lot of swimmers and staffers.  We didn’t expect to get all of these projects done immediately, but we wanted some done in short order.
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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:

By Tom Weber
Advocacy Director, FBSP

President’s Report

Failure is Not an Option

by Robin Cravey

On Monday, July Fourth, I shot out of Austin headed for Cape Canaveral.  The countdown for the last launch of Atlantis had begun, targeted for Friday, July 8th.  On July 8th I went down to the shore.  The day dawned with low clouds and weather unfavorable, but NASA continued the countdown, and when the launch window opened the clouds parted, and the spacecraft lifted off.

At that moment I thought of the spirit of the great NASA flight control teams:  “Failure is not an option.”

Friends of Barton Springs Pool was begun in 2006 by a few swimmers who resolved to rescue the pool from neglect.  We did it not by filing a lawsuit or holding picket signs, but by picking up a broom and a net.  We’ve been cleaning the pool with a broom and a net, month in and month out, ever since.

With a lot of help, we wrote a master plan for pool improvements.  Most of the improvements were really about restoring and renovating the facilities that had been allowed to deteriorate.  Because a unique natural wonder like this should be surrounded by the most beautiful and best grounds and facilities.

For four years now, we’ve been shepherding the master plan to implementation.  It’s been slow going.  Some times, in long meetings, there is a temptation to say, this problem is too hard, let’s think about it later.  But we have to keep working.

This pool is a gift of the eons.  We’re just the stewards for a generation.  Failure is not an option.

Quick Dips

Now is the chance for some lucky swimmer to join the FBSP board.  Our treasurer has announced her intention to step down, which opens up a slot.  There may be some shifting around, so the opening could be treasurer or something else.  If you’re interested, email me,


Speaking of our treasurer, Maria Weber is the longest continually serving member of the  board.  She recently achieved a major goal for FBSP by winning recognition of our tax-exempt status by the Infernal Revenue Service.  Her patience and dedication has been a steady source of strength, and we’re going to miss her.


Next on the event horizon is our Fall Social, coming in November.  Mary Yarrington has already begun planning, so email her to lend a hand,


We’ve just wrapped up our annual round of visits to city council members, and I want to thank Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, and Councilmembers Mike Martinez, Laura Morrison, Chris Riley, Bill Spelman, and Kathie Tovo for their attention and support.