Karen Hoffman Blizzard
I feel grateful that I am able to swim in a place where the streams of the past, present and future blend together into the wholeness of who I am. I will continue to dance with the waters and advocate for this magical place — the heart and soul of our beautiful city — for the rest of my life.
Memories of Barton Springs
Karen Hoffman Blizzard, native Austinite
Barton Springs has been a current running through my life for as long as I can remember. I learned to swim by retrieving coins in the shallow end, marveling that I could see straight through the water to read the details of each coin! My parents came to Texas and settled into Austin’s Travis Heights neighborhood in 1962, just before I was born—my mom toting one suitcase and her guitar. With Barton Springs, it was love at first sight. My dad worked for the U.T. System, and my mom would take me, and (later) my younger sister and brother, to the pool on a regular basis. I knew then that Barton Springs was a wondrous place, and I couldn’t wait to get older and dive into deeper waters.
Throughout the 1970s, my special connection to the Springs continued when I attended Webb 6th Grade Center and Dobie Junior High–named, respectively, for Walter Prescott Webb and J. Frank Dobie, two members of the “philosopher trio” who made Barton Springs their home of ideas. In high school, I participated in the University Interscholastic League, which was led for decades by the third member of that special trio, Roy Bedichek. Later, while attending UT-Austin in the ‘80s, I discovered the thrills of sneaking into the south side for delicious late-night skinny-dips.
In 1990, the Springs became an emotional anchor for me after the loss of my mother to cancer in 1989, and before that, my father’s passing in 1979 (also from cancer). In what seemed a fitting tribute to our idyllic early years with them at the pool, we siblings worked with TreeFolks to plant a pecan tree across from the pool, near the Zilker Hillside Theater, in our parents’ memory. It has grown into a thriving, mature tree which gives shade and beauty to everyone who passes.
During the 1990s, I was a musician and graduate student living in a rental house with no A/C. Sharing the free swim hours with my bandmates on summer evenings kept us cool and created lasting memories. At that time, I was also looking for ways to help conserve the place I loved, and to share it with others. In 1990, I attended the famous all-night City Council meeting to protest the Barton Creek PUD. In the mid-90s, I volunteered to help build the SPLASH exhibit, which was the first interactive educational experience to come to the pool.
In 1998, Barton Springs brought me together with my future husband, Mike Blizzard. I volunteered for the bond election campaign to conserve 15,000 acres over the Edwards Aquifer, and Mike was running the campaign. After some intense campaign flirtations, we started dating immediately after the campaign victory and were married four years later. We also formed some of our closest lifelong friendships during that time.
During the late ‘90s and early 2000s, I served on the SOS Action PAC, and later as a board member of the Save Our Springs Alliance. In 2007, I became a board member of the newly formed Friends of Barton Springs Pool. We advocated for the pool master plan process authorized by the City, organized community forums, and established regular volunteer pool cleanings which continue today. In 2008-09 I served on the working group to help develop the Barton Springs Interpretive Plan, which was an outgrowth of the master plan process.
I love Barton Springs – its beauty, the fresh smell and feel of the water, the feeling of peace that it brings me, the ways that it has brought me together with cherished people and causes. I feel grateful that I am able to swim in a place where the streams of the past, present and future blend together into the wholeness of who I am. I will continue to dance with the waters and advocate for this magical place — the heart and soul of our beautiful city — for the rest of my life.