No, you can’t swim there yet – but repairs are starting at Balmorhea Pool

Repairs are set to begin at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas, which has been closed since May. File photo by Jay Godwin/American-Statesman

 

Don’t expect to take a flying leap into Balmorhea Pool in West Texas anytime soon.

But after nearly three months of evaluation, crews are set to begin making repairs to pool walls and a concrete apron beneath the diving board, which collapsed during the annual cleaning and draining of the facility in May.

The 1.3-acre, V-shaped oasis, located about 400 miles west of Austin, draws locals and visitors heading to the Big Bend region. It’s also home to two small, endangered desert fish – the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.

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

Years of erosion caused by the flow of water from the springs caused the damage. Repairs are expected to take several months and cost $2 million. Crews will build cofferdams, temporarily remove the diving board, salvage existing brick around the pool edge, remove the failing wall and backfill behind it, then install new walls along the north and south sides of the pool.

RELATED: Balmorhea Pool closed indefinitely due to structural damage

Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say they are working to protect the endangered species during the project. They have created habitats outside of the pool for the protection of the fish and other invertebrates, and say they are working to protect the species while work takes place.

Balmorhea State Park in west Texas on a hot July day. File photo by Jay Godwin/American-Statesman

No heavy equipment will be used; crews will demolish and remove debris by hand. Cofferdams will allow water to flow through the canals and cienegas while work takes place, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff will monitor water quality and flow to prevent downstream contamination.

“Our plan is to reverse decades of erosive impacts and restore public access to this oasis as soon as possible,” Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks, said in a press release. “It’s regrettable that the timing of this issue has prevented Texans from cooling off in their favorite swimming hole for most of this hot summer, but visitors will find an improved park after badly needed improvements are made to the pool, the historic motor courts and the parks’ popular campground.”

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

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.

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 pool measures 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 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.

To make a donation to help fund the repairs, go to http://www.tpwf.org/balmorhea/.

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.

Pool at Bastrop State Park closes for major renovation

The pool at Bastrop State Park has closed for a major renovation. Photo courtesy Bastrop State Park

 

Don’t expect to dip a toe in the swimming pool at Bastrop State Park this summer.

The pool, which opened in 1937 and was last renovated 20 years ago, has closed for a major renovation and will remain shuttered all summer.

In recent seasons, officials had to make temporary fixes to leaks and broken mechanical equipment at the pool. Officials say a major remodel was needed to keep the facility operating. Crews will resurface all three sections of the pool and install new plumbing, pumps, filters and chemical systems.

SITE: Five refreshing swimming holes that aren’t Barton Creek

“We came to a point where a significant project had to be undertaken to keep the facility in operation,” Jamie Creacy, superintendent of Bastrop State Park, said in a press release. “We look forward to having swimmers back in an efficient and modernized pool facility that the community will be proud of.”

Teens take a dive in the pool at Bastrop State Park at the monthly Splash Bash on June 16, 2016. CONTRIBUTED

The rest of the park will be open as usual.

The Bastrop YMCA has managed the pool for the past six seasons, offering swim lessons, summer day camps and community events. With the pool closure, Bastrop YMCA members will get free day-use entry to Bastrop State Park from Memorial Day to Labor Day; free entry to all YMCA of Austin facilities and pools during that same time period; free entry into the East Metro park pool in Manor; and swim lessons at the Cub Scout Pool at the Lost Pines Boy Scout Camp during the month of July, according to a press release.

The Bastrop YMCA will also offer youth, family and health and wellness classes, including summer camp at Bastrop Church of Christ for children ages 5-12 and summer youth sports leagues in July and August. The club will also unveil a new Aire Fitness outdoor gym at Fisherman’s Park, with outdoor fitness classes that are free for YMCA members and available to the community for a per class fee.

“We understand the challenge of not having access to a pool during the summer, but we’re committed to providing Bastrop County residents a variety of fun, healthy and engaging experiences that will keep them active while still helping to beat the heat,” said Terry Moore, executive director of the Bastrop YMCA.