The Austin Chronicle

New South Bathhouse

Needs more scrubbing

By Daniel Mottola, August 3, 2007, News

Eco-minded Austinites often curse whenever a new construction project is proposed within the Edwards Aquifer watershed because of the resulting runoff that pollutes the aquifer and ultimately the springs. So you can imagine their reaction when planners floated the concept of building a new bathhouse immediately up the hill from the beloved Barton Springs Pool at its existing south entrance.

Architect Al Godfrey has presented some initial proposals for the new bathhouse to an array of city boards and commissions as well as neighborhood and environmental groups. He says responses to the new facility fall into three categories: 1) It urbanizes the area; no way! 2) I love it, I want one, make it big! 3) Maybe, but it depends on the size.

Godfrey has drawn up three different bathhouse sketches designed to complement each of the arguments, including a down-sized version to satisfy the "no way" camp. On the whole, Godfrey envisions a picturesque structure in the south woods of the pool's grounds, with an accessible pathway to the pool for the handicapped, which currently doesn't exist. Though the council must sign off on such a project, Godfrey reminds folks that construction at or near the pool is subject to archeological and historical site restrictions. As such, he said the south bathhouse segment of his presentation received a chilly response from the Texas Historical Commission.

Save Barton Creek Association board member Susan Bright, a devoted swimmer of 30 years, said she's willing to consider small improvements to the existing shack near the south entrance, such as a baby-changing area and outdoor showers, but she's personally opposed to a substantial new facility and that it should not be included in the list of short-term projects headed to council at the end of the month. "This is something that needs to be studied," she said. "There's no consensus in the community."

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