Barton Springs is celebrated by many as the soul of Austin. The three-acre pool, rising from the Edwards Aquifer, sits among 350 acres of parkland in the capital of Texas. “The Springs” is home to sacred spiritual practices, swaying forests of water stargrass, drunken full-moon parties, endangered salamanders, and bracing New Year’s plunges. The green-blue pool stays 70 degrees year-round — a relative ice bath in summertime and a warm dip in winter. Mist rises from the water on cool mornings and cormorants skim the surface, hunting crawfish.
Karen Kocher is a filmmaker and University of Texas professor who has dedicated decades to preserving and protecting Barton Springs and its ecosystem, which has long been threatened by development. A key fight came in 1990, when a developer proposed the largest residential project in Austin’s history upstream of Barton Springs. It was voted down in a historic all-night hearing, but the incident revealed oversights in the municipal watershed ordinance. Save Our Springs Alliance wrote a replacement that restricted development in the Barton Springs watershed and successfully lobbied for its passage. Kocher chronicled the movement in her ... Read more