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Coming Soon to Barton Springs: Free Admission for Octogenarians

The Austin City Council will weigh a proposal to allow all Austinites over 80 free admission to Barton Springs Pool.

An Austin City Council committee is recommending that Barton Springs Pool waive admissions fees for a select group of residents: those 80 years and older.

Though it was free for them before — sort of.

Kimberley McNeely of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department says those looking for free admission had to meet certain requirements, namely an age limit, and fill out an application.

“Individuals had to be 80 years of age, [show] that they contributed to Barton Springs Pool in some way and they would articulate that in their request, and also that they were a pool swimmer,” McNeely says.

She explains that this application then had to get approval from three different committees – the Land and Facilities Sub Committee, the Parks and Recreation Board and the Open Space, Environmental and Sustainability Committee. That recommendation then goes to the Austin City Council for approval.

Only then can an applicant get what’s called a Barton Springs Pool Lifetime Pass. The passes stretch back to 1960, when the council granted a pass to then-85-year-old Charles W. Morrison. That practice was codified in 1972, when council approved a fee waiver to 85-plus Austinites. The passes’ age limit was lowered to 80 years old in 1993. Only six passes have been given out in the last 10 years, with over 30 in the program’s lifetime.

The latest folks to get one? Former Austin Mayor Frank Cooksey and his wife, Lynn. But now the city’s envisioning a much simpler process for its oldest resident swimmers.

“[For swimmers] 80 years or older there is no fee. The fee for that is zero amount, which would mean we would no longer have to come back with an RCA and go through this entire process,” McNeely says. “There would be no application process.”

Right now, residents 62 and older pay $1 to get into Austin’s prized swimming hole. If the resolution is approved, those 80 years and older would simply show their ID and dive right in.

The City is also considering extending the free pass to all pools that charge. That gesture would cost the City roughly $289,000 a year in pool revenue. Council is set to vote on the item on Nov. 12.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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