Future for the Tree Court is Being Shaped

Sketch of new entry

We all treasure the majesty of the remarkable tree grove that greets us as we pass to the main entrance to Barton Springs Pool. As the Master Plan for the pool area developed, it became crucial to address the poor condition of the Tree Court, an area broadly bounded by the bath house and the snack bar between the parking lot and chain-linked fence “pool overlook”. Reports in 2009 documented the big pecans are not altogether healthy. The causes include heavy foot and bike traffic through the court, inattentive tree care, and impervious sidewalks and crushed but compacted granite.

What to do? Restoration of the Barton Springs Pool trees in the Tree Court became a priority for the general grounds improvements. Extensive public involvement resulted in input at three design charrettes sponsored by PARD and their lead architect, Brian Larson (of Larson, Burns and Smith). An additional committee meeting by the Joint Committee of the Austin Environmental Board and PARD approved moving forward on the drafting of 30% design plans last Fall.

Friends of Barton Springs Pool has advocated for foot traffic relief by restoring the main entrance to the pool through the centrally located Rotunda, bringing patrons into the pool between the men and women’s shower rooms and away from the trees. To support this unfunded alternative, the Friends and other organizations are seeking to fund a third party architect to design the plans.

Sketch of restored rotunda entrance

Both tree court preservation and restoration of the Rotunda entrance option got major victories on March 7th with a unanimous decision of the Joint Committee. After considering alte

rnatives, the committee went with the landscape option for the Tree Court that places a broad wooden boardwalk over the most traveled areas of the Tree Court, along with native landscaping in the primary root zones of the trees. The design includes a small balcony area and decorative fencing out from the present area of the chain-linked fence – a great overlook. Another component of the plan includes moving the bicycle racks out to the edge of the parking lot and away from the trees.

Significantly, the plan approved to go forward calls for maintaining the entrance where it is, but designing that particular area so that it does not conflict with a possible move to the Rotunda, if volunteer partners can sufficiently share in the funding costs. Under either entrance option, there will still be a second exit from the pool (through the turnstile). Shutting off the current entrance can be a fairly easy engineering modification when more final plans are drafted.

The Joint Committee asked the city staff and Larson to prepare the 60% design plans for all the general grounds improvements and asked staff to brief the full PARD Board on the progress of the improvements.

Advocacy Director
Friends of Barton Springs Pool