Barton Springs opens renovated pool

Claire Ricke

Barton Springs Pool, a historic Austin swimming hole, reopened with finished renovations. 

The grounds improvement project focuses on improving water quality, protecting the endangered salamanders and updating equipment for the safety of the swimmers. According to Barton Springs project manager Robin Camp, the project is resolving erosion issues with muddy water runoff into the pool. This runoff is now being controlled into a vegetative filter system. The gravel parking lot was also paved to rid the lot of dust that would end up in the pool.

“We installed a pump so that we can irrigate the pool water so it's not using the chlorinated city-processed water, which is both environmentally good and its also good for the salamander habitat,” Camp said.

The pool was scheduled to hold a public celebration for the renovations Wednesday morning, but the event was rained out and will be rescheduled. Watershed Protection biologist Liza Colucci said stabilizing the overflowing water is important for the health of the endangered Barton Springs salamanders. The filter system employs a water quality catchment basin to keep excess water from shooting into the pool.

“We tried to control some of the runoff that was entering the pool because the runoff potentially contains contaminants,” Colucci said.

The project’s renovations are for the benefit of not only the patrons, but the surrounding vegetation. Along the pump system, a wheelchair-accessible path was added to the south side of the spring. Additionally, a suspended walkway was added to protect the historic heritage oak trees’ roots.

With the safety of the swimmers in mind, Camp said decayed power lines that were previously not up to code were also replaced. Lights around the spring were also added to increase visibility for the lifeguards monitoring those who prefer to take a dip after dark.

Reflecting the hues of the spring, the City of Austin Art in Public Places program contracted a sculpture made for the Barton Springs Improvement Project with a budget of $26,500. The artist, Hawkeye Glenn, created the sculpture using materials native to Texas, such as pink granite and limestone. According to the art program, the piece can be spun by the viewer, a feature Glenn has said creates a moment of reflection before one enters a sacred place.

Project civil engineer Blayne Stansberry said problems arose with trying to construct within 300 feet of Barton Springs. The Save Our Springs Ordinance restricts developing around the critical water quality zone to protect the watersheds of the Hill Country. To continue with the renovations, the ordinance was amended to allow for erosion control systems to stop sediments from washing down into the pool from the construction.

Journalism senior Mika Locklear said Barton Springs is a place frequented by students as an inexpensive escape from the party scene.

“It’s something that is always an option, even at the end of a paycheck when you’re living off ramen,” Locklear said. “It’s also relaxing. When I’m stressed out, I love to just go and lay out.”