What’s the latest camping trend? Elevated pop-up tents, and we’re testing one tonight

I’ve got the Woolly Bear set up at McKinney Falls State Park. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I’ll be sleeping in the treetops tonight here at McKinney Falls State Park, where I’ve successfully wrangled open a borrowed Woolly Bear elevated tent.

I wouldn’t describe it as “easy” to deploy – rather, it took a couple of phone calls and some extra hands to do the job. I’m confident I’ll shave half an hour off my time the next time out of the gate.

Here I am, wrangling open the pop-up, elevated tent.

Reinforcements are coming – brats, beer and company. It’ll be a race to see which arrives first, those supplies or a storm that’s apparently headed my way. Perhaps I’ll get to test the rain fly.

Stay tuned for a full review …

Grant will pay for new well at Deep Eddy Pool

Friends of Deep Eddy received a grant from Austin Parks Foundation to drill a new well for Deep Eddy Pool. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

 

Five area parks are getting a boost through grants awarded by the Austin Parks Foundation.

On the list of recipients? Friends of Deep Eddy, which landed $25,000 to drill a new well that will provide an additional water source for the much loved spring-fed pool.

In all, the foundation awarded $172,000 in community grants for its spring cycle.

Mabson Fields will get $50,000 for new bleachers, a shade structure and scoreboard, and Patterson Park will get $50,000 for new playground equipment, seating and natural play elements. Barrington School Park received $27,000 to improve access to the Barrington Green Schoolyard, and Murchison Pool landed $20,000 for a new playscape.

As part of its new Park Design Services, the foundation also named Pomerleau Pocket Park as recipient of its first-ever Master Plan project. The foundation will lead efforts to develop a long-range vision for the park.

Austin Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the city of Austin and the private sector to develop, maintain and enhance the area’s more than 300 parks, trails and green spaces.

For more information or to apply for future grants, go to www.austinparks.org.

Balmorhea Pool closed indefinitely because of structural damage

Swimmers enjoy the huge spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas. AMERICAN-STATESMAN file

The spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas closed indefinitely this week because of structural failure.

Crews discovered damage to the concrete apron beneath the diving board, which stabilizes the walls of the pool, during an annual draining and cleaning of the 1.3-acre, V-shaped oasis this week, officials said. The pool, located about 400 miles west of Austin, is a popular stop for visitors heading to the Big Bend region.

This photo shows damage to the concrete apron near the diving board at Balmorhea Pool. Contributed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Officials are evaluating damage and have not set a date for reopening. The closure comes just as temperatures are heating up and the park’s busy season is about to begin.

“A large section of concrete collapsed in the wall under the high diving board and the remainder of the concrete is in danger of collapsing as well,” said Carolyn Rose, superintendent of the park. “The concrete will need to be removed in order to assess the integrity of the deck that supports the diving board. Once that assessment is made, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will proceed with any needed repairs.”

The site has long attracted people. Native Americans, Spanish explorers and U.S. soldiers watered up at San Solomon Springs, which pumps out about 15.5 million gallons of water a day, long before the Civilian Conservation Corps turned the desert wetland into a pool in the 1930s. Private concessionaires operated the park until the 1960s, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took it over.

Balmorhea State Park in West Texas on a hot July day. American-Statesman file

More than 153,000 people visited the park between Sept. 1, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2017. On hot summer weekends, the park fills to capacity by noon and cars are turned away.

The enormous pool is 25 feet deep in places, with a natural bottom. Swimming there feels like gliding through a giant aquarium populated by fish of all sizes. It holds 3.5 million gallons of water, and water temperatures hover between 72 and 76 degrees year-round.

The pool has environmental significance, too. It’s home to two small, endangered desert fish – the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish. Habitats have been created outside of the pool for the protection of the fish and other invertebrates, and officials say they are working to protect the species during the closure.

RELATED: Take a dip in a desert oasis at Balmorhea Pool

The 45-acre desert park’s day use and picnic area will remain open while the pool is closed. The park’s retro, adobe-style 18-unit motor court closed early this year for renovations and should reopen in 2019.

“Balmorhea State Park is a treasured oasis in West Texas that has provided unique recreational opportunities for generations of Texans,” Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks, said in a news release. “Our staff is working diligently to address the situation and make sure the pool is safe for the visitors and the aquatic life in habitats associated with the San Solomon Springs.”

For more information about the park, call 432-375-2370.