A swimming hole for Houston get closer to reality
Could Houston have its own version of Barton Springs -- an enormous, beautiful swimming hole, right in the city, where people from every walk of life go to cool off?
That entrancing idea was floated last month here in Gray Matters, in Andrea White's Good Ideacolumn. Developer Monte Large and graphic designer Evan O'Neil had turned a coffee-shop flash of inspiration into a website -- houstonneedsaswimminghole.com -- and were dreaming big. On a tract of at least ten acres in central Houston, they proposed creating a manmade swimming hole, one that would use plants and natural processes to filter bayou water until it was not only safe for swimming but crystal-clear. They cited similar projects in Australia and Minneapolis. And they guessed that they'd need, oh, $6 million to $10 million for its construction.
Now Sherwood Design Engineers has signed on to do, pro bono, "Phase 1" feasibility studies -- basic calculations of what it would take to make the dream real. That's a big boost: Sherwood, an international firm with offices in San Francisco, New York and Houston, is known for its eco-sensitivity. High-profile projects include New York's Hudson Yards.
On a video, Sherwood engineer Tom Bacus declares that a cutting-edge, large-scale eco-project is perfect for this place: "Houston is a city that loves innovation. Houston is a city that embraces new ideas." (Bacus, presumably, would know: His resume includes work on Google's campus in San Francisco.)
"And the project is absolutely possible," the engineer continues. "We've got examples in many kinds of climates with many kinds of plant palettes of how you can use plants and natural systems and natural ecology to clean up water and make it safe to swim in."
Oh, and that video? It's part of a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign to cover the next phase of planning. (Donor goodies include a beach ball, logo sunglasses and a "Slip'n'Slide" party in April.) On the agenda, the website explains, is creating a nonprofit group and a business plan "so that the city, donors and taxpayers do not have to pay for this once it is on the ground." Once that basic structure is in place, heavy-duty fundraising can begin.
"It's exciting!" says eco-mattress entrepreneur Jeff Kaplan, the third member of the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole team. "It could change the way Houston sees the bayous. It'd bring humongous health benefits. And it'd be totally cool."