Statesman Op-Ed by FBSP President: Austin should commit to the care of the neglected trees at Barton Springs Pool

Comment on the Statesman Op-Ed by FBSP President Robin Cravey here.

Cravey: Austin should commit to the care of the neglected trees at Barton Springs Pool

The hue and cry being raised about the trees at Barton Springs Pool is a mixed blessing. The trees have been taken for granted for a long time, so it’s good that people are finally taking notice of their condition. On the other hand, there’s a lot of misinformation. In the long run, getting care for the trees is part of the vision and plan that is bringing new stewardship to the Pool.

From large dead limbs to rotting holes in trunks, the evidence of decay at Barton Springs Pool has been there to see for a long time.

That’s why, in 2006, the Friends of Barton Springs Pool made care of the trees at the pool a priority. We begged city council members and staff for care for the trees. As we worked through the master plan process, we urged that care of the trees be done swiftly. In 2007, the City Council funded care of the trees among the short term projects.

These things take time. So this year we found ourselves anticipating the release of the awaited tree assessment. It was a sensation.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong report. Instead of a report on how the city would take care of some 150 trees that have been neglected, it was a report on how some two dozen trees might need to be removed. We had known that a few trees might be beyond help, but we expected that to be balanced by ambitious plans to care for all of the remaining trees. The report was nothing but bad news.

The parks director pledged not to remove trees until alternatives had been considered. Some arborists say the tree assessment is not so dire as it seems. The Austin Parks Foundation has pledged money for tree planting, and the Friends of Barton Springs Pool has volunteered. The discussion is progressing.

People finally recognize that the trees have been not just neglected, but abused in the way that we thoughtlessly abuse trees all over the city every day. They’re choked in planters, their root zones are paved over, their soil is packed down. Changing that will not be cheap or easy, but change it we must.

It isn’t that the parks staff doesn’t care. In the economic downturn, the parks budget is suffering more than twice the cuts of some other departments. Changing that will not be cheap or easy, either.

These are the systemic issues that can be fixed with sustained attention in the long term. That’s the commitment of the Friends of Barton Springs Pool. And we’re looking for help. Visit

In the meantime, we’re working with the city staff to get on with maintaining the trees. That’s the whole point.

Cravey is president of Friends of Barton Springs Pool.

Friends of Barton Springs Pool Mobilizes Support for the Trees

Read the actual press release here.

The Friends of Barton Springs Pool (FBSP), a local group that organizes volunteers to provide direct support for the maintenance of Barton Springs, has been mobilizing efforts to save the trees. FBSP congratulated Parks Director Sarah Hensley for hiring a local arborist to perform yet another assessment of the two dozen or so trees recently recommended for removal.

The recently released report commissioned by the City of Austin as part of the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan recommends the removal of many trees from the Barton Springs pool and surrounding. Many large, old trees might face the ax, shocking local environmentalists and swimmers.

FBSP requested and supports the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan mandating the tree study. In fact, FBSP requested that study and care of the trees be included in the master plan. Also, FBSP supports the City of Austin Parks Department decision to make a careful and more comprehensive study of trees where consensus on their removal doesn’t exist. However, with regards to public safety, some of the trees will clearly have to go.

“We want to save and preserve every tree we can,” declared FBSP President Robin Cravey. “However, we understand that a few trees are too far gone to save. Trees that pose a significant danger to the public will have to be sacrificed.”

Volunteers on the FBSP board pointed out that the trees were not slated for removal to allow for improvements to the bathhouse and other facilities as some people have alleged. These improvements were meant to incorporate the footprint of the existing trees, not to chop them down. In fact, some facility improvements will benefit the trees, including moving the bath house entrance back to the center of the building and burying the electrical lines now strung through treetops along the sides of the Pool.

FBSP plans to reap the benefit of publicity surrounding the trees to bring about new stewardship programs for the trees, water quality, and other amenities associated with the famous pool. They announced their intention to:
• Solicit volunteers to re-plant trees and assist on grounds maintenance.
• Obtain donations and matching funds with the Austin Parks Foundation.
• Coordinate with the city for tree purchases.

The FBSP also proposes the implementation of a Tree Action Plan to maximize tree care and minimize tree removal. Aggressive tree re-planting efforts are needed to replace older trees before it is too late. Other elements of the plan include:
• Evaluation of current mowing practices and care of the ground surface under tree “drip lines.”
• Consideration of modifying improved ground surfaces near bathhouse and inside pool area.
• Use of cost and feasibility as a principal rationale for deciding if tree preservation is worthwhile (less emotional and more focused on reasonable budgets)
• Where currently ill trees are preserved or nursed back to health, evaluate pool management practices to keep public safety risks low (windy, stormy conditions). Continue reading “Friends of Barton Springs Pool Mobilizes Support for the Trees”

Call for volunteers to clean the pool on 5/28

The Service Committee of FBSP is holding our next “Volunteer Pool Cleaning” Thursday, May 28th, 2009 from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Please sign up for a 2 hour shift to help us care for the pool. Send an e-mail to with your name, phone number and the shift(s) you would like no later than Wednesday, 5/27 at 7pm.

10am – NOON Annie Walker
NOON – 2pm Robin Cravey
2pm – 4pm Maria Weber
4pm – 6pm Annie Walker

Donated snacks will be available. We will provide a water jug for you to refill and we ask that you please bring your own water bottle (so we can reduce disposable cup waste).


VOLUNTEERS: Please check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Be prepared to get wet. Wear a pair of old sneakers / watersocks / teva-type sandals because the bottom is slippery. Wear clothes you do not mind getting wet in. Typically the work does not require you to submerge totally but wading in waist high water is not uncommon. Bring gloves as some of the duties can cause blisters. Use sunscreen on all exposed areas; and we recommend a big hat to help shade your face & neck.

Please note: No swimming is allowed because the lifeguards are part of the cleanup crew. Please let the shift leader assigned to your time know of any jobs that you do not feel you can do. We are permitted to use the showers when we’re finished cleaning. Remember that staff will be cleaning, so post a lookout at the dressing room door if you feel the need.

OBJECTIVES: (subject to change depending on the priorities set by BSP staff)
1.) Push-broom the shallow end of the pool to remove as much algae as possible
2.) Scrub rails to remove algae
4.) Weeding in bathhouse garden areas

Thanks in advance for your help! We’ll see you at the pool!

Events related to the Barton Springs Tree Assessment

All of these are posted on our calendar

• Walking tour with arborist Don Gardner, Wednesday, May 13, 5:20 pm.
• Walking tour with city forester Michael Embesi Friday, May 15, 3 pm. Meet in the tree court.
• Walking tour with city forester Michael Embesi Friday, May 15, 6 pm. Meet in the tree court.
• Urban Forestry Board meeting on May 19, 2009 at 6:30 pm at the Mexican American Cultural Center located at 600 River St.
• Environmental Board meeting on May 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm at the City Hall Council Chambers Room 1002 located at 301 W. 2nd Street.