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.
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.
Kelly Snook is our new assistant director for planning at PARD. I met with her and other staffers recently. Kelly directed planning in Missouri City, near Houstonand worked with community groups.
Jonathan Beall and I met with Laurie Dries recently to talk about the burgeoning plant life in the pool. Some of the plants Laurie introduced have taken over, and we’ll be working to bring them under control.
Emma Cravey and I attended a budget input session sponsored by the City Manager, where we submitted our position paper advocating for full funding of the Parks budget.
Members of the FBSP board and the BSPCC met recently with State Representative Eddie Rodriguez at the Capitol. We also met with State Rep. Mark Strama at a nearby Starbucks.
The Watershed Department continues to struggle with the bypass tunnel repair project. Director Victoria Li has assigned Dennis Crabill and Johnnie Price as new staffers on the project.