Statesman Article — “Slowly, surely, we’re making pool treasure sparkle again”

14 Jul 2014 by admin, Comments Off on Statesman Article — “Slowly, surely, we’re making pool treasure sparkle again”

In the Statesman’s July 2, 2014 issue, Robin Cravey posted a nice article recapping the recent progress at Barton Springs Pool.  Read and enjoy!

Austin marked the realization of a vision last week. On July 9, City Council members, city staff and many friends of Barton Springs Pool gathered at the south gate of the pool to celebrate the completion of the general grounds improvements.

In 2006, the pool was mired in muck, eroded, degraded and deteriorated. Then a small band of swimmers organized the Friends of Barton Springs Pool and called for a new vision. It was a vision of this artesian treasure clean again, and surrounded by works worthy of it. With our vision outlined in a one-page memo, we made the rounds at City Hall.

It wasn’t a grand vision. There were no sunny pleasure domes with caves of ice. It was a vision of stewardship: Energize the work of caretaking; cultivate the things that are dying; repair the things that are breaking; restore the grace of design.

The response to this vision was moving. Then-City Manager Toby Futrell set aside a downpayment in the 2007 budget. Council Members Sheryl Cole, Lee Leffingwell and Betty Dunkerley championed a resolution to write a Barton Springs Pool Master Plan.

Soon, architects Limbacher and Godfrey were helping us shape the vision into a plan. And because so many needs were so long overdue, we divided the plan into short-term projects and long-term projects. Once drafted, the plan went through an arduous public process.

In 2009 the council unanimously adopted the plan. Even though the plan was adopted, each part of it has gone through its own laborious public process, not always artfully done. The sturdy members of the Friends and our allies trooped to meeting after meeting, week in and week out, year in and year out.

Gradually, one by one, the short-term projects were designed, approved and built. Gradually, the state of the pool was improved. Each one of the projects, however mundane, has been a milestone.

Some were simply deferred maintenance:

• Remove accumulated flood debris;

• Repair the floodwater bypass tunnel;

• Take care of the badly neglected trees;

• Stabilize the inner walls at Sunken Gardens;

• Replace the roof on the bathhouse.

Some were studies needed for future improvements:

• Survey the topography of the pool and grounds;

• Model the hydrodynamics of flow through the pool;

• Test the structure and strength of the dams.

Now, with innovations most nearly grand, the general grounds improvements are complete. The tree court has been landscaped with generous green space. The airspace over the pool, long marred by powerlines, is now open to the sky. A beautiful new accessible path on the south side now stretches like a beckoning embrace to all comers. The south grounds have been extended out to encompass a row of stately pecan trees.

For this project, it was architects Larson and Burns who provided the professional design services.

At last we can begin to see the difference that the master plan has made in the pool. And those are just the short-term projects.

During most of this long effort, I was president of FBSP, but Steve Barnick and Gary Beyer also served, and now Mike Cannatti is leading the organization into the future. Throughout, we have enjoyed the strong support of the Austin Parks Foundation and all our allies on the Barton Springs Plan Coordinating Committee.

Nothing could happen, of course, without the valiant service of members of our boards and commissions, or the hard work of the city staff.

Next we move forward to the long-term projects: renovate the bathhouse; restore the rotunda as the entry and focus of the building; add showers on the south side; improve the dams to improve water quality.

Austin voters approved $2 million in bonds for the bathhouse renovation. The Friends are committed to raising additional funds. Get ready to chip in.

Cravey is an Austin attorney and past president of the Friends of Barton Springs Pool.

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