The Barton Creek Uprising began for me when I discovered Barton Creek in 1963. I had come to Austin to go to the University of Texas. Even in those days it cost money to get into Barton Springs. As a student barely scraping by I had to settle for Campbell’s Hole and the water carved rocks in the creek downstream. Unlike the springs the creek above the pool was a wild place, no houses, no sewer lines, no greenbelt or crowds or dogs for years to come. On windy days, too windy for skydiving a friend and I used to go down to Campbell’s Hole and cliff dive off the high ledges above the hole. No chance of that these days. Austin in the 60’s was a small town, especially in summer when the legislature left town along with most of the UT students. Few people even seemed to know a bit of paradise was right there on the outskirts of town. Or we took it for granted - a big mistake. Eventually I graduated from UT and left town in 1975. After years in the work world around Houston I grabbed a bus back to Austin in 1985 as a hurricane hit town and found my friend Roger Baker with whom I shared rooms in the 70’s. Roger was active in transportation issues opposing ring roads around Austin and introduced me to the terrain and speaking about the issues.
By now lower Barton Creek was surrounded by development, condos so close to the creek people could throw rocks at the swimmers. Austin’s city fathers had perpetrated on abomination on the people. To get the antipathy out of my system one day I wrote a memorial proposing someone build a giant sling shot and loft balloons of brown and green paint and sticks and twigs to splatter up the houses above Campbell’s Hole. In good humor of course. The lady I lived with read the story and suggested I look up some folks called Earth First! A way of life was born.
At first we were preoccupied with saving the endangered species around Austin, the cave bugs, the Black Capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler.
One day in 1989, as I was exploring Barton Creek above town I discovered an algae bloom in Barton Creek below a new development called Barton Creek Properties. We came to know the development of high end homes above the creek disposed of sewage by spraying treated effluent on a golf course drained by tributaries that emptied into Barton Creek. I took the my photos and information to the Planning Commission and I believe Mary Arnold asked if this was an ongoing problem. We set out to prove it was, eventually in effort to thwart their plan to create a monstrous Planned Unit Development above the creek.
Earth First! folks kept the pressure on by continuing to document the development’s pollution of Barton Creek.
In time we hit the streets. With Daryl Slusher and the Austin Chronicle fanning the flames the antipathy toward polluting development caught fire. With all of us and tons of lovers of Barton Springs and Barton Creek testifying, the all night City Council hearing ended with a defeat for Jim Bob Moffet and Barton Creek Properties' application to proceed with another PUD on the outskirts of town. The most salient thing I remember of myself that night was Jim Bob testifying he knew more about Barton creek than anyone. My reply from the audience was “Bullshit.”
I believe that night’s uprising gave birth to the whole Save Our Springs movement.