March 7, 2019 600 AM
BALMORHEA— Balmorhea State Park’s iconic San Solomon Springs pool reopened to the public on Saturday in time for swimming season following several months of restoration work, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The pool was closed last May after damage to the concrete apron under the diving board was discovered during the pool’s annual cleaning.
“We are thrilled to have the pool at Balmorhea open once again. The pool is a natural wonder that is enjoyed by visitors far and wide,” said Rodney Franklin, director of Texas State Parks. “This renowned desert oasis is not only important for our West Texas community but for all of Texas. The work done during this project will help preserve this unique aquatic habitat for generations of Texans to enjoy.”
The extensive repair project included the creation of cofferdams, salvaging of the historic diving board and brick around the pool edge and demolition of concrete around the diving board area. In addition, the existing distressed wall and backfill was removed, a new footing foundation was installed, backfill was replaced and a new wall was constructed. The cofferdams were constructed in the pool to ensure the protection of the endangered species and maintain water flow in the canals and cienegas throughout construction.
Due to the cultural sensitivity of the site and the presence of endangered species, no heavy equipment was used during construction.
After initial evaluations from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff, the project was estimated to cost $2 million.
Apache Corporation partnered with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) to help fund the repairs to the spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park. The fundraising effort was jump-started with a $1 million challenge grant announced by TPWF and Apache in August 2018. Apache pledged to match all donations dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million. Donations poured in, and by Jan. 17, more than $1 million had been raised.
More than 575 donations were received from all corners of the state, with 60 percent of the donations under $100. Several Texas companies made significant contributions, including Texas Pacific Land Trust, Saulsbury Industries, McCoy Remme Ranches, Legend Energy Services, Pioneer Energy Services, and Garrison Brothers Distillery.
In addition to their initial $1 million match effort, Apache Corporation contributed a $1 million endowment to benefit Balmorhea State Park in perpetuity.
“We are deeply grateful for Apache’s generosity in establishing the challenge grant and for stepping up again with a $1 million endowment to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy the Balmorhea State Park pool,” said TPWF Executive Director Anne Brown. “The overwhelming response from Texas citizens and companies who chipped in demonstrates just how much people love this iconic West Texas oasis.”
“Apache is proud to have been one of the many companies and individuals who stepped up to support the treasured pool at Balmorhea State Park in its time of need,” said Apache Corporation CEO John Christmann. “Texans from far and near, including our employees and partners in the region, can once again enjoy the pool with friends and family thanks to the leadership of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation and the generosity of so many.”
In addition to TPWF and Apache, this project was assisted by the TPWD Inland Fisheries division, the Texas Historical Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Reeves County Water District, just to name a few.
“We are grateful for the numerous partnerships that assisted with the completion of this project,” said Franklin “Generations have enjoyed the pool and thanks to the generosity of Texas donors it will be enjoyed by generations to come.”
This project is only one of the three major developments at Balmorhea State Park. Renovations to the San Solomon Springs Courts and campgrounds continue and overnight facilities at the park will not be available until later this summer.
As the home to one of the most unique aquatic environments in Texas, Balmorhea State Park is dedicated toward water conservation, and the ongoing repairs to the septic system will require that extra measures be taken to limit water use.
The Civilian Conservation Corps era structure was built in the mid-1930s and is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The 1.3- acre pool is up to 25 feet deep, holds 3.5 million gallons of water and the water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round.
Additionally, the Balmorhea State Park pool is home to numerous species of aquatic animals, including two small, endangered desert fishes- the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.
For more information about the park, or to buy a day pass to Balmorhea State Park, visit the TPWD website.