The goal of the master plan is to return the site to its former glory, where the water was cleaner and the experience of the pool was more enjoyable. The plan intends to propose appropriate additions and renovations to the swimming pool, its buildings and its grounds that respect the fragility of this unique natural and historical setting and also accommodate the significant user demands on Austin's most popular park amenity
How it Began
The Barton Springs Pool Master Plan project began with numerous public comments to staff and the City Council regarding water quality and other issues at Barton Springs Pool. Many of the recommendations that made it into the Master Plan were derived from this public input.
An October 2006 City Council resolution recognized an immediate need for improvements at Austin’s most famous swimming pool. It called for consideration of water quality and salamander habitat improvements, grounds improvements, infrastructure improvements and facilities improvements. Working from this resolution, City staff worked internally and with stakeholders for input, and they consulted previously commissioned studies and analyses to develop a task list. The master plan consultant team was given that list when hired in early 2007, and the list was used to develop a project scope. The team also received previous studies, information on earlier construction efforts and historical data on the pool, grounds and buildings at the site.
Master Plan Goals
Barton Springs Pool facility is basically unchanged for several decades and many of the structures need maintenance to prevent deterioration of the historic buildings. In addition, when the pool was constructed in the early 1900’s, it dammed a free-flowing spring and creek to create a pool. This changes the ecology of the springs, altering the habitat for aquatic species that have since been listed as endangered. Many of the projects are intended to gather data to determine what is possible to undo some of the effects of habitat alteration and improve the quality of the water in the pool to benefit both swimmers and salamander. Other projects are to invest in the pool grounds to prepare them for the coming century. Others are to begin restoration of the historic structures, including the bathhouse and Sunken Gardens.
In developing the Master Plan, several critical issues were identified as needing immediate attention. These issues were presented to City management and the City Council. Approval was given, and funding ($6.2 million) was provided. These issues will be addressed in the short-term projects, which will be completed in three to five years. The short-term projects include:
A pilot study for water recirculation in the “beach” area.
A pilot study for ultrasonic algae control.
A pilot study for creek flow.
An assessment and treatment of the 45 most critical trees.
Replacing overhead electrical wiring with underground wiring, and adding electrical service to the poolside to facilitate pool cleaning.
A detailed topographic survey.
Removal of the gravel build-up in the deep end.
Renovating the existing bathhouse (phase I): Roof repairs/replacement, air conditioning upgrade, and solar hot water heater replacement.
Replacing bypass grate.
Repairs to the bypass tunnel joints.
A new pump to facilitate more efficient pool cleaning.
An ADA accessible path from south entrance to poolside.
Hydrodynamic modeling for flood and flow control.
Silt and algae disposal.
An interpretive plan for pool and vicinity.
A temporary algae skimmer.
General grounds improvements.
Improvements to Sunken Gardens (phase I).
Structural testing of dams.
Select this link for the statuses of the short-term projects (pdf format). Although these projects have been approved and funded, each project will include stakeholder input throughout the process.
The Master Plan includes proposals for numerous long-term improvements. Implementation of water quality aspects of the long-term proposals is dependent on the outcome of the short-term water quality studies. Other issues that required more data before a recommendation could be made, as well as issues that were deemed controversial in discussions with the public were placed in the long-term proposals.
Even with approval of the Master Plan by Council, each of these individual proposals will have to be approved and funded by Council after extensive public input.
Some of these proposals are:
Consider adding a bathhouse to the south side.
Renovating the existing bathhouse (phase II), including:
Moving ticket counter back to rotunda.
Expanding and refurbishing women’s changing area.
Adding a unisex bathroom.
Relocating classrooms elsewhere.
Reconstruction of Eliza Spring outflow to increase salamander habitat.
Flow regime improvements (will depend on results of funded scientific studies):
Install gates in upper pool dam.
Increase height and width of upper pool dam.
Modify gates in lower pool dam.
Install water recirculation equipment.
Add stream flow stations for individual spring outlets and replace station in Barton Creek upstream.
Improvements to/reconstruction of the area downstream of the pool.