Barton Springs Pool to be renovated

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Ana Gallo swims laps at Barton Springs Pool Monday afternoon. The pool is set to be drained, repaired and cleaned up as part of a preservation effort engineered three years ago by city officials.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

The Barton Springs Pool and recreation site will soon undergo a face lift with the help of city officials and UT community members.

Spurred by public comments and conversation among city council members about upkeep and safety, city officials drafted a master plan three years ago intended to preserve and improve the Barton Springs Pool facility. According to the Austin Parks and Recreation website, the master plan includes goals for ecological, recreational and maintenance-related projects, as well as short-term projects for accomplishing each goal. Parks and Recreation staff met with members of the Environmental Board Monday night to discuss repairs necessary to maintaining a clean and safe environment for both pool visitors and area wildlife.

“The master plan was put into motion because a lot of the infrastructure at Barton Springs was built in the late 1920s, ’30s and ’40s,” said Tom Nelson, Parks and Recreation aquatics division manager. “With any old structure, it needs some work.”

Nelson said repairs to a bypass culvert pipe are of major importance to those working on the project. The pipe contains several holes limiting its efficiency, and reconstruction was formerly delayed due to concerns of damaging area salamander habitats, he said. Both the Austin blind salamander and the Barton Springs salamander, which inhabit the affected area, are listed as endangered species.

Price said the Parks and Recreation department and Environmental Board members have collaborated in order to develop an eco-friendly repair plan for the culvert pipe, and repairs will begin next fall in order to allow spring and summer visitors to enjoy the pool. 

City officials have also discussed reconstruction of creek dams in order to increase water flow from Barton Springs. Ben Hodges, associate professor in civil architecture and environmental engineering, said the city contacted his department to develop a model explaining the water flow and habitat consequences from possible dam reconstruction. 

“The city is looking at different options for changing the gate on the dams, which would change water velocity and impact the blind salamander,” Hodges said. 

Hodges said the model, constructed by graduate student researchers, is scheduled for completion within the next two years. 

Johnnie Price, Watershed Protection Department engineer and Barton Springs restoration project sponsor, said the culvert pipe serves to carry natural debris and sediment around the pool and deliver it to a dam downstream. 

“If we didn’t have it, we’d have to clean out the pool every time it rained,” Price said.
Dominic Ferrario, Texas Wranglers president and advertising junior, said in addition to relaxing at Barton Springs, members of his organization have also been involved in community service at the site. Ferrario said he and other members participated in a park cleanup last spring by removing debris from the bottom of the Barton Springs pool after it was drained. Ferrario said he believes the debris got to the bottom of the pool because of the damaged culvert pipe. The group plans to complete other community service projects on site this year, he said.

“I think the age of the pool is part of what makes it an Austin landmark,” Ferrario said. “[The Texas Wranglers] had gone out there for some time now so [the cleanup] was a neat way to give back.”

Printed on September 20, 2011 as: City, community to renovate Barton Springs