Parks and Wildlife closes State Park Pool
By LPR Staff
After nearly 70 years of providing summer fun to the residents and visitors of Caldwell County, the Lockhart State Park Pool may have to close its gates forever.
Like many governmental agencies, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been suffering from a lack of funding and an expanding budget for several ye
ars. During the 79th Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature slashed another five percent from the TPWD budget, and the results have been dire for some State Parks, including the Lockhart State Park.
“The regional offices had to come up with budgets for each region,” said Lockhart State Park manager Jay Hess. “One of the things that got cut here was the seasonal help, and the seasonal help means the lifeguards. We won”t open the pool without the lifeguards, because we don”t want to jeopardize the safety of our guests.”
The Lockhart State Park Pool was originally opened in 1938.
The original pool, a spring-fed “swimming hole,” was a fixture in Lockhart recreation until 1970.
“The original spring-fed pool had some problems with flooding and botanical contaminants, sort of like Barton Springs up in Austin,” Hess said. “In 1972, they opened the new pool, and to my knowledge, there hasn”t been a season when we didn”t have a pool.”
Over the years, the Lockhart State Park has worked with community groups to provide swimming lessons, pool parties and other recreation for area residents. The pool is also a draw for campers.
“Many of our campers choose the Lockhart State Park because we do have a pool,” Hess said. “In that way, we bring tourism to Lockhart, and we”re going to lose some of that if we don”t have the pool.”
According to Hess, the Lockhart State Park Pool hosts around 6900 guests each year.
“We had one slow year in 2004,” he said. “We were only able to have the pool open for the last two weeks of the season because we went through a major renovation that year.”
Hess said the renovation, which included new filters and piping systems, cost around $80,000.
“This year, I put about $31,500 in my budget to operate the pool for the season,” Hess said. “But the pool does operate at a loss for the state.”
Park and pool admission fees cover about half the cost of the chemicals, water and staff to operate the pool from Memorial Day weekend until the end of August. The remaining funds, which come from TPWD, were removed from the budget this year.
“The state parks weren”t developed as money making ventures to start off with,” Hess said. “They were originally supposed to provide recreation and help people experience our natural resources. Through the years and the budget crunches, I think the state lost sight of that original goal.”
If the Lockhart State Park Pool closes, the only public swimming available for the community will be the Lockhart City Pool. Mayor James Bertram said during a city council meeting on Tuesday evening that the city pool likely cannot handle the additional traffic created by the loss of the State Park Pool.
“I encourage everyone to contact their state representatives and let them know if they aren”t happy about this,” Bertram said.
Unfortunately, Hess said the budgeting cuts are a “done deal,” and the state cannot provide the funding for the pool.
There are options for the State Park Pool, however.
Hess claimed that the state will allow the pool to open if the park can find the funds to cover the loss from operations, around $15,000.
“The Friends of the State Park showed interest in keeping the pool open,” he said. “If they can cover the money the state is expected to lose, then we can keep the pool open.”
Funds donated to the Friends of the Lockhart State Park are earmarked for operation of the Lockhart State Park only, he said. State regulations allow for a Memorandum of Agreement with private organizations to help fund specific parks, and the Friends of the Lockhart State Park has such an agreement with the state.
The Friends of the Lockhart State Park will host two meetings next week in an effort to formulate a plan to save the pool. The meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 27 and Wednesday, March 1 in the meeting room at the top of State Park Hill.