The Austin Chronicle

Priming the Springs

By Michael King, August 24, 2007, News

Although last Thursday's official City Council pool-cleaning was postponed by the weather, the master-plan tour of the facilities at Barton Springs Pool proceeded under a gentle rain. Sarah Searcy of the Friends of Barton Springs Pool, supplemented by plan architect Al Godfrey, city staff, and other Friends members, led city officials and a couple dozen other observers through the bathhouse and along the pool, addressing improvements under consideration in the plan. Among the dignitaries were Mayor Will Wynn, Council Member Lee Leffingwell, and state House District 48 Rep. Donna Howard.

"I like to say I've been swimming in Barton Springs since before I was born," Searcy told the group. An "October baby," Searcy said her mother found Barton Springs indispensable for a comfortable pregnancy. But last year, after a lifetime of swimming, Searcy and other swimmers decided the deterioration of the legendary pool and its facilities had become alarming and organized the Friends of Barton Springs. In collaboration with the city, they are engaging in a master plan to research the entire pool grounds and invest in repairs over several years. The tour gave reporters and other interested citizens a closer look at some of the changes under consideration – not to mention a rare occasion to view the opposite gender's dressing room.

Many of the proposed improvements are both cosmetic and functional – e.g., the plan would bury the network of electric lines while also bringing more electricity (in part solar) to utility equipment that now mostly runs on gasoline. The bathhouses would be reconfigured somewhat and modernized – as Godfrey said, "We want to make it work like a contemporary but at the same time venerable building" – in the manner of similar reconstruction completed earlier this year at Deep Eddy Pool. Direct changes to the pool will be even more incremental: Carefully calculated changes to the dam and its debris-catcher are aimed at improving water flow and limiting the number and extent of flooding, a frequent problem this year. (For more on the proposal, consult the city's website,, and see "Making Waves," by Daniel Mottola, Aug. 3.)

The next public meeting on the master plan, focusing on short-term goals, is Monday, Aug. 27, 6pm at Town Lake Center, First Floor Confer­ence Room, 721 Barton Springs Rd.

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