Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Explaining the Parks Board Coup of May 2023

The Parks Board experienced an unprecedented coup in May 2023, the month when they approved the Zilker Park Vision Plan. 

We ask: 

    • Who on the current Parks Board has shown favoritism to Park Nonprofits.

    • Who are the elected officials who appointed them.

We explain why our public resistance to commercialization of parks by Park Nonprofits matters.

A presentation to the Parks Board and the public.

Diana Prechter

April 2024

A PARB in transition: The 2022 Board welcomes a new member in Feb. 2023, Mr. Villalobos. This PARB voted against the Park Nonprofits in the Zilker Park Vision Plan -- but two members heeded Cannatti and did not support this action against the ZPVP.

A PARB in transition: Of 11 PARB members, 10 are newcomers by May of 2023.

A PARB incident: A phone call with Karen Blizzard of Zilker 351 drastically alters one PARB member’s vote.

PARB discussion about women swimmers’ change order request. The “expert witness” selected by the Board was Mike Cannatti of the nonprofit Barton Springs Conservancy.

PARD’s voting trends since Feb. 2023 which have advanced Park Nonprofits and obstructed the voiced concerns of other PARB members and the general public:

How did the PARB suddenly become strongly aligned with Park Nonprofits?

By May of 2023, the Mayor and several Council Members replaced experienced park volunteer board members with "no-experience-novices". 

It has created the most severe loss of institutional memory in the modern history of the Parks Board. 

It was a “coup” of the Parks Board.

The facts:

• A 2022 Parks Board with a collective 25 years of service to the Parks Department was replaced by a cohort of novices totaling 1 year of Parks Board experience. 

• A 2022 Parks Board that expressed serious concerns against approving the Zilker Park Vision Plan in Feb. 2023 -- specifically because of the potential expansion of Zilker351 and all Zilker Park Nonprofits -- was replaced by novices who would vote in favor of the Zilker Park Vision Plan's commercial expansion of Zilker351's Park Nonprofits no-matter-what.

Which elected officials are responsible for the 2023 “coup” of the Parks Board?

Why does this matter?

The voting pattern of the current Parks Board suggests that some of the Parks Board members and the following elected officials are likely being heavily influenced by monied interests.

Park Nonprofits might have begun as organizations with the best of intentions. But by being granted park concession contracts providing steady revenue streams (like ACL, the Zilker Train, food trucks, and rentable event venues), they have become money-making opportunists.  They have learned an easy way to get more revenue: 

• Get another concession contract! 

• Control another public building and rent it out for weddings and corporate events!

Even more: They have learned an easy way to pay-to-play with politics: 

Nonprofits have learned that if they collaboratively pay for a PARD study/report/ or master plan, they can influence the message in the plan. 

They are using our tax payer dollars to write CoA PARD plans that benefit themselves!

Now, as co-authors of the master plans, and as managers of park concessions and park properties (like the Seaholm Power Plant, the Old Bakery Emporium, and more), the Nonprofits can behave like Profits: They seek the steady stream of revenue resulting from ever greater commercialization of our park land and public assets.

If the commercialization of our parks and public assets 

actually benefitted the public coffers (the General Fund), 

that might be acceptable. 

But the profits go straight to the Nonprofits.

Commercialization of our parks and public assets does not benefit the public. Other parks funding mechanisms must be studied. The current Parks Board members and their city council “appointers” are unlikely to veer away from their positions without extraordinary public pressure. Elections have consequences.

If you would like PARKS to be GREEN, WELL MAINTAINED, and NOT COMMERCIALIZED, then you need to ask these elected officials to replace the Pro-Nonprofit Parks Board members with park people who are devoted to the real issues: Trees, grass, biodiversity, water and people. 

Tell these elected officials in your own words: 

Parks are for people. Not profit. 

Replace your appointee to the Parks Board now.

The elected officials to contact are:

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, District 2

Council Member José ''Chito'' Vela, District 4

Council Member José Velásquez, District 3

Council Member Ryan Alter, District 5

Council Member Zohaib ''Zo'' Qadri, District 9

Mayor Kirk Watson

Send your email to:,,,,,, 

Monday, February 19, 2024

How did the 2024 Limbacher-Godfrey re-design of the Barton Springs Pool Bathhouse pass review by the Texas Historical Commission?

Take a look at the 1946 historic design of the Barton Springs Pool Bathhouse (BSPBH) -- you still see many of the 1946 elements in our existing women's dressing/shower area.

Link to the full site plans: 

[As of 02-19-2024: If you read the following and agree, you should send your own personal message to:,,,,,,] and include me: Thanks for your interest.]

The current women's dressing/shower area of the historic Barton Springs Pool Bathhouse (BSPBH) has been greatly altered in the 2024 site plan by the firm Limbacher-Godfrey. 

Considering the removal of nearly every 1946 element in the women's dressing/shower area, how could the Limbach-Godfrey 2024 site plan pass the review of the Texas Historical Commission? This is difficult to understand in light of Laurie Limbacher's membership on the Texas Historical Commission. []

Let's take a look at the 1946 plan and compare it to the existing bathhouse design. The 1946 elements are beautiful and functional, and show an understanding of women's conversational habits.

We see in 1946:
• 60 cubicles (semi-private dressing areas with bench)
• Symmetry and beauty for users: 6 showers face the courtyard

Compare to the 2024 Limbacher-Godfrey site plan.

We see in 2024:
• 8 cubicles (semi-private dressing areas with bench)
• Zero showers face the courtyard

Consider how the existing historic elements have been destroyed in the Limbacher-Godfrey design:

We compare "2024 site plan" to "existing."

The Limbacher-Godfrey design gives women:
• 8 dressing cubicles 
• No shower stalls facing the sunshine (essential for winter swimmers)
• No shower stalls facing the beauty of the open green courtyard.

Take a look at the existing women's dressing/shower design from 1946:

Symmetry. Green. Showers have a view of nature.

Beauty, green, sunshine, sky. (above) A view from the shower.

Women like to talk. The courtyard, surrounded by showers, is a place to talk and make new friends:

The Limbacher-Godfrey design places all shower openings in this corridor. This "dark corridor" receives minimal sunshine: A cold and dark place for winter swimmers, much avoided.

Dressing cubicles (5 of them) will be lost in the Limbacher-Godfrey design, replaced with 4 sinks facing women toward a wall, destroying 5 historic dressing cubicles which are -- in winter --gloriously bathed in warming sunshine and -- in summer -- semi-hidden behind lush banana trees:

Why has City Hall allowed this Limbacher-Godfrey destruction of historical elements from the 1946 design? Restoration is needed, not destruction. Anything less is an irresponsible use of $17 million of taxpayer money. 

Did "2018 community engagement" support the destruction of historic elements?

According to a recent email, the City believes that it can trust their 2018 process of "community engagement" and that our current ASAP urgent request for "change orders" are arriving at the last minute.

Last minute? I've been trying to find out about the Limbacher-Godfrey plan since Sept. 1, 2022. This email below -- which I personally sent to a Barton Springs Conservancy Board Member/professional architect who was a "stakeholder" and privy to the details of the design -- was not answered by the BSC Board Member:


The email I sent (pictured above) on Sept. 01, 2022 asks the BSC Board Member is there still an avenue for swimmers to offer suggestions or input? I wrote:

The word in the "locker room" is that the Barton Springs Pool bathhouse is scheduled for remodeling starting in Jan. 2023.

Is there a public web page with details/design/schedule? The women swimmers are keen to see any info that is readily available. We just don't know where to look online. 

And is there still an avenue for swimmers to offer suggestions or input? Your thoughts on that, too, are appreciated.


What the City says: Community engagement 2018 made us do it. 

My answer: If "community engagement in 2018" is the City's defense, then we need to learn their language. So -- I read through the community engagement data. Let me tell you what I learned.

• Design Kickoff 04-03-2018 had 10 participants who answered 3 general questions on pieces of paper.
• Online survey April-July 2018 had 1,082 participants. Only 41 were daily users of the BSPBH: 3.79%.

Online survey now closed, follow-up meetings were held:

• August 14, 2018 "Values Workshop" had handwritten comments. No count of participants is reported. 10 people? 100 people? We do not know how many people participated. The results were probably on paper and later typed up by PARD staff. It resulted in a hard-to-decipher laundry list of "good ideas" and "concerns" without any statistical result (like a pie chart or bar graph; I'm not asking for a lot...)

• October 18, 2018 Meeting #3 (3 women’s designs) - Stakeholder Meeting - no report of stakeholder conversations or feedback available. Stakeholders meet "behind doors."

October 30, 2018 Open House, Preliminary Concepts and Values Survey feedback (3 women’s designs) 

Survey results for concepts based on Bathhouse Values (and the 3 designs for the women's area) - 15 participants attended. They were divided nearly equally in opinion about the 3 designs for the women's dressing/shower area. Why were men even allowed to comment on the women's dressing area? Why not ask the experts: the women? 

Mike Cannatti, president of Barton Springs Conservancy, even wrote his survey comment about the women's dressing/shower area -- and he has never even used it! 

"Plan 3 does the best to restore, reopen, and improve user experience. Love, Cannatti"

• MISSING from the CoA web page: The “presentation of the Final Schematic Design.”

Who saw the final design? We don’t know. But some people must have seen the Final Schematic Design because there are survey results.  And they don’t look good:

Final Schematic Design Survey results - A survey of 272 participants were asked two questions:  

(1) Do you like it? (62% did NOT love it) 

(2) Did we achieve the Values (63% said “not perfectly”)? 

• Oct. 30, 2019 Presentation #4 (final) - no feedback accepted. We see the Limbacher-Godfrey Plan, and it has been written-in-stone since at least October 2019. (The 2019 "Preferred Design" appears to be identical to the 2024 Site Plan.) The schematic of the "Preferred Design" was created over 4 years ago. Why were swimmers and staff NOT asked by the CoA to be a “technical advisory group” to allow user experience expertise — the experience of the year-round swimmers — to provide feedback and suggestions to preserve the historic elements and functionality for everyone?


The 2019  Limbacher-Godfrey schematic is identical to the 2024 Limbacher-Godfrey site plan. 

This means:

No community input or expert swimmer/staff user-experience feedback has been incorporated into the Limbacher-Godfrey design for over 4 years! 

It was locked-in-stone in 2019!

Let's dial back in time to see the 2018 Values.

Barton Springs Bathhouse Values Based on input from the Community Meeting and Values Workshop on August 14, 2018


It’s a bathhouse—focus on the visitors 

Open to the public as much as possible


Better, cleaner, possibly more restrooms 

Better privacy for families 

More solar showers 

Better arrival experience, better leaving experience 


Education for all users 

Expand the mission to include education in the building and on the grounds 

Educate users to the fragility of the spring complex 


Respect the original architecture 

Celebrate the Rotunda. 

Use it as the main entry 

Enjoy the two-story, naturally-ventilated volumes 


Amplify the green/natural features in the dressing areas 

Consider efforts to reduce impervious cover and to improve stormwater quality 


One-phase project preferred Minimize disruption of bathhouse and pool operation 

Maintain ongoing use by swimmers

Based on the 2018 "Values" it seems clear to me that the Limbacher-Godfrey Final Design gets an "F" for "HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE - Respect the original architecture."

Last topic: Why does the Final Design have five (5) family restrooms?

Let's look at the survey results from 1,082 participants in 2018:

The following pie chart -- I made -- shows the % of popularity based on the total number of responses. (i.e. each of the 1,082 survey participants could check as many of the boxes in this answer as they wanted.)


We are asking City Hall:

Restore the 1946 historic elements of the women's dressing/shower area. They provide BEAUTY, NATURE, and WOMEN'S CONVERSATION. Winter swimmers need sunny showers and dressing cubicles. Capacity matters: a plan with 8 dressing cubicles is wrong. Restore the historic elements and you will have added 5 more dressing cubicles.

We value these historic elements from 1946.

How thoughtless: the Limbacher-Godfrey design destroys the women's conversation area in the courtyard. 
The courtyard -- now bounded by their proposed blank walls -- will be a no-man's-land. Don't you agree?

Remove the 2 family restrooms located in the east and west corners of the Bathhouse. They block potential future staff positions. Your own 2018 community engagement survey shows that 6% of responses is not a good reason to go from 1 family restroom to 5.

The City of Austin and the Barton Springs Conservancy have ignored my personal requests for information and for an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback to the design since Sept. 1, 2022.

The City has created delays. Not the swimmers.

Explaining the Parks Board Coup of May 2023

The Parks Board experienced an unprecedented coup in May 2023, the month when they approved the Zilker Park Vision Plan.  We ask:   Who on t...