The extreme growth that Austin has undergone over the past decade can now count one of the Hill Country’s most famous green spaces as a victim. Today, the Travis County Commissioners Court enacted a new plan to help curb the staggering amount of visitors to Hamilton Pool. This new plan requires anyone visiting the pool from May 15 to Sept. 30 to make a reservation, either online or in the Parks Reservations Office.
Overwhelming traffic in the summer months is the driving force behind the new plan. According to KXAN, park rangers have spent the past two summers detouring drivers when the pool’s 75 parking spots fill up. Staff said that somewhere near 70 percent of people who show up during the summer cannot access the pool because of this.
The new system has both plus sides and negative sides.
It rewards those who plan ahead. For those who plan well, that means no more fighting for spots, wasting gas (and being crappy to Mother Nature) while idling in the parking lot, or having your Hamilton Pool dreams shattered if you get turned away. It means that if you drive the 45 minutes from downtown Austin to the pool, you will definitely get in. That guarantee can make life a lot easier for some people.
That also means no more spontaneous trips to the pool, which takes some of the fun out of those carefree summer days. More importantly, the plan is nearly doubling the cost of a day at Hamilton Pool. Previous costs included $15 for parking/daily recreational use, while new costs include that $15, plus add on $10 for the reservation and another $1 for online reservations. This makes a day at the pool even tougher on college students, working families, and the like.
The new plan may also have a negative effect on out-of-towners who aren’t hosted by a local, since they may not be aware of the new rules. That one is definitely a plus in our book, though.
The plan appears to have been well thought out. There are two reservation windows — from 9am to 1pm or 2pm to 6pm — which prevent people from staying all day and not turning over those parking spots. There is also a plan in place for inclement weather-reservation holders would receive a voucher to come back another day.
The pool will return to its regular operating system and cost from October to April.
Thankfully the Austin area does not lack beautiful spaces for swimming, but this may still a bit of a blow. What do you think, Austin? Are you excited for the changes or totally pouting in your floaties right now?