Home 2023-05-21T10:16:03-05:00

Welcome to Barton Springs Conservancy!

Barton Springs is a natural treasure that is the heart and soul of Austin. The four underground springs supply cool, refreshing waters providing the community a beautiful space for year-round swimming. The three-acre pool offers locals and visitors a unique experience where they can be deeply immersed in nature and human community. Individuals from all different backgrounds develop a deep love for the Springs’ overwhelming beauty and its educational, recreational, historical, and cultural riches. Barton Springs Conservancy honors, preserves, and enhances the experience of Barton Springs for everyone through education and park improvements.


As anyone visiting Barton Springs knows, Zilker Park is a beloved and special place because its natural environment provides a clean, safe, enjoyable, and welcoming outdoor space for millions of visitors each year, including not only swimmers, hikers, tourists, families, and recreational park users, but also numerous outdoor events that celebrate Austin’s natural spaces in a metropolitan setting located at the intersection of Barton Springs, Barton Creek, Lady Bird Lake, and the Barton Creek Greenbelt.  The growing popularity of Zilker Park embodies the tension between the development pressures of our growing city and the environmental fragility of this open space with spring fed swimming hole and salamander habitat, but also presents an “opportunity” to leverage this growth, not only by harnessing revenue from this growth to make park improvements and to protect the natural environment, but also by educating the rapidly growing number of pool and park visitors about the environmental threats to this natural treasure and about the stewardship opportunities for preserving and protecting it for future generations.

To attend to the needs of Zilker Park as well as the growing use of the park visitors, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department conducted an extensive, two-year long community engagement process to establish a Vision Plan framework for the restoration and future development of Zilker Metropolitan Park, including over 200 documented and recorded community meetings with community members, nonprofit and city wide organizations, concessionaires, event/festival organizers, and neighborhood associations.  Based on community input and feedback, the design consultants have prepared a Draft Vision Plan which seeks to balance the competing priorities of protecting the natural environment while allowing use of the park by so many visitors who enjoy this beloved outdoor space.  We commend the City and design team for their work in resolving so many different priorities and in creating a plan which was improved by the diverse range of community inputs.  And while no single stakeholder will be completely happy with the final plan, the ability to compromise and support the overall outcome is a critical part of this community-driven process.

While Barton Springs Conservancy has not taken a position on every detailed aspect of the plan, we are generally pleased with that the overall direction of the Zilker Park Vision Plan (http://bitly.ws/F4ix) because it does a great job of “greening,” integrating and orienting the park visitor experience. For a detailed statement of our message, please see our BSC Message to Parks Board (May 16, 2023) which provides a summary of the aspects of the plan that we support, along with a listing of some possible improvements that can be made.  By way of highlight, we are excited by the following proposals:

  • Creating a green Land/Nature Bridge that safely connects Zilker Park across Barton Springs Road;

  • Ecologically enhancing over 92 acres of environmentally damaged parkland;

  • Removing surface parking from the Polo Field and Butler Landfill parking areas and other park areas that negatively impact water quality in Barton Creek;

  • Reducing the impervious cover in the park by removing numerous paved surface parking areas that pollute our waters;

  • Relocating and resizing the Sports Area to avoid removing trees from the Disc Golf area;

  • Adding 6.9 miles of new trails and 5 new bike/ped bridges for improved active transportation access at Zilker Park;

  • Improving access within and to the park with an “all of the above” approach for parking, transit, trails, shuttles, and increased bike/pedestrian connections;

  • Adopting a “phased” approach for adding any buried or green structured parking solutions by sequencing of them to allow for a needs assessment before proceeding with constructing a new one;

  • Requiring that environmental studies and analysis will be required before proceeding with parking structure project, including environmental study and testing of the area below any buried garage location as well as implementation of protective measures during any construction to protect the underlying aquifer structures from any significant damage to the environment. 

  • Creating a Welcome Center to orient and enhance the environmental education opportunities for park visitors and students;

  • Rehabilitating Barton Creek with controlled water access and erosion treatments;

  • Enhancing the tree canopy throughout Zilker Park; and

  • Improving the carbon capture performance of Zilker Park.

Please join Barton Springs Conservancy in advocating for our values and priorities which we believe will protect the environment while welcoming visitors from across the city to enjoy all that Zilker Park has to offer by addressing increased usage of Zilker Park while prioritizing the natural environment of the park through education and park improvements that focus on sustainable systems and innovative methods for maintenance and operations.  The next board review meeting for the Vision Plan will be the Parks Board meeting on Monday, May 22 (6pm) at City Hall.  In considering the parks and recreation improvements of the Vision Plan, we encourage the Parks Board to note the recommendations and support (and associated conditions) from the Pedestrian Advisory Council and Bicycle Advisory Council, the Urban Transportation Commission, the Design Commission, and the Environmental Commission. You can register to speak by clicking https://forms.office.com/g/4cnEnXT3hT or calling or emailing Tim Dombeck, (512) 974-6716, Tim.Dombeck@austintexas.gov. You can also send an email to the Parks Board using the messaging points and email addresses provided here.

For the Love of the Springs,
Michael Cannatti
Barton Springs Conservancy, President

“For the Love of the Springs” Campaign Video