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Habitat Restoration Progress

Scuba Diver
Diving for Science

Hello Volunteers,

The Habitat Restoration Project is underway at Aquarena Center. Although portions of the park remain open to the public, volunteer diving has been temporarily suspended for the duration of the project. The purpose of this site is to communicate to the dedicated volunteers who help preserve the San Marcos Springs and related ecosystem. We thank you for your support. When the Habitat Restoration Project is completed, we will still need your assistance managing invasive species and preserving our springs. In the meantime, check this site often to follow the progress as Aquarena is returned to its original habitat.


Taylor M. Heard
Diving for Science Volunteer Coordinator
Aquarena Center
Texas State University - San Marcos




Recent Construction Update Photos

9/1/2012 Bus Parking Loop Construction

Construction workers have built a bus parking lot on the peninsula approximately where the Aquarena parking lot was located. This parking area will be reserved for school buses and tour buses, and it will resolve some of the parking problems in Texas Rivers Center parking lot.

8/15/2012 Aquarena Nature Trails Construction; Native Grass Planting

Walking trails, made from decomposed granite, are being built throughout Aquarena. These trails will allow guests to view Spring Lake and the surrounding grassland. These trails will also allow access to the Wetlands Boardwalk. 

A mixture of native grass seeds are being planted around Spring Lake. Once established, these native grasses will replicate the type of grassland that was originally located here.

7/24/2012 Sky Spiral Deconstruction

Construction workers are busy removing the Sky Spiral this week. The Sky Spiral was constructed in the 1970s, and it allowed guests at Aquarena Springs to view San Marcos and the surrounding Texas Hill Country. The material from the Sky Spiral is being scrapped for recycling.


Yesterday construction workers started tearing down the old Submarine Theatres and hauling debris away. Progress on the Habitat Restoration Project continues to be made daily.

Super crane lifts 2nd sub out of the water

6/1/12 2nd Sub is Out of the Water!

Construction workers successfully lifted the 2nd Submarine Theatre out of the water today. The super crane will now need to be disassembled so that the necessary equipment can be brought in to cut up the old subs. 

2nd Sub Lift Gallery

Submarine be lifted out of water

5/24/12 Sub is Out of the Water!

Today, construction workers successfully lifted the first Submarine Theatre out of the water! What a historical day at Aquarena Center. Be sure to check the local news this evening, as the media should have plenty of coverage. The plan is to remove the second Sub tomorrow morning. Diving for Science volunteers are welcome to watch the removal of the second sub tomorrow morning.

Sub Lift Gallery

Super Crane
Super Crane

5/23/12 Submarine Theater to be removed Thursday at 10am

Construction workers have finally finished assembling the massive super crane. One of the largest cranes in the world, this super crane can lift loads up to 1,800 tons or 3.6 million pounds. Tomorrow, at 10am the super crane will lift the submarine theatre out of the water and place it on the peninsula. The park will be closed, but volunteers are welcome to watch the lift from the rooftop of the Old Hotel.

Super Crane Gallery

5/7/12 Super Crane

In February, two cranes were on site to remove both submarine theatres. Unfortunately, the cranes did not have enough lift capacity to remove the subs from the water. Therefore, construction workers have decided to bring in a “super crane.” The super crane should have enough lift capacity to remove the subs out of the water and onto the peninsula. Necessary equipment for the super crane has been arriving daily. In total, we have been told that it will take 62 tractor-trailers to haul all necessary equipment on site. Two smaller cranes are already on site and will be used to assemble the super crane. As for a timeline, no hard dates or details about the sub removal have been released. Although, with all the preparatory activity going on, I believe we are getting close.

5/1/12 Project Update & Volunteer Diving for Science

Most of the peninsula has been seeded. Construction workers also recently finished installing an aesthetically pleasing fence around Sink Creek in the riparian zone. Progress continues to be made one day at a time.

I have been receiving a lot of emails and phone calls from Diving for Science volunteers who are eager to get back into the water. Volunteer Diving for Science will resume when the project is completed. Unfortunately, we still do not have a date for the completion of the project. Please be patient as the rest of the construction is being wrapped up. 

3/20/12 Project Update

Unfortunately, the Submarine Theatres that were scheduled to be removed last month are still in the water. Apparently, the weight was too much for the two mobile cranes to lift out of the water. A new plan should be coming forward soon. In other news, all other structures have been removed from the peninsula. Progress continues to be made in all phases of the project including the new construction of the Visitor Center/Ticket Booth Buildings. 

cranes  to lift submarine out of the water
2 mobile cranes ready to lift subs out of the water

2/15/12 Submarine Theatre to be Removed

The two Submarine Theatres are scheduled to be removed on Thursday, February 16th and Friday, February 17th. My apologies for the last minute notice, we just received the word today.  Volunteers are welcome to watch from the rooftop of the Old Hotel, but the park will be closed.  

boom installation
Workers move boom into place

1/27/12 Boom Installed for Sub Removal

Today we assisted construction workers with the installation of a boom around both subs in the training area. As a precautionary measure, the purpose of the boom is to protect Spring Lake's critical habitat during the removal of both subs.



Although the boom has been installed, the subs will not be removed for a few more weeks at least. Scientists will first have to catch predatory fish inside the area of the boom and then release them in Spring Lake, which is outside the area of the boom. After the necessary predatory critters have been removed, an environmental impact assessment will then be conducted. Once scientists are satisfied that everything possible has been done to minimize take, operations to remove the subs can begin. The most recent plan I've heard involves lifting the subs completely out of the water with a mobile crane. Then the subs would be cut into sections on the peninsula and hauled away.


boom installation
We do not have an exact date for when the subs will be removed. However, we do know that it will be a few more weeks. Check this site often, as I will post information about the removal of both subs. I understand many volunteers are interested in watching the commercial divers remove the subs.  My plan is to immediately post the date(s) for the removal of both subs as soon as I find out that information. Volunteers will not be allowed on the peninsula or in the water during the operation, but can watch from the rooftop of the Texas River Center. The rooftop provides an excellent birds eye view.  


1/23/12 Steady Progress

Construction workers are hard at work and making steady progress on the Habitat Restoration Project. There are currently four excavators on the peninsula running simultaneously as well as other heavy equipment. The majority of the debris from the old facilities has been removed. In fact, the concrete slabs are basically the only part of the old facilities remaining. Today, workers are using the excavators to break up the many concrete slabs. Workers can also be seen on the hillside removing exotic trees. Overall, the project seems to be moving along nicely.    


Exotic Tree Removal

tree removalWorkers have started to remove invasive non-native trees on the hillside. Exotic tree removal is yet another part of the Habitat Restoration Project.

tree removal
Workers cut down exotic trees

tree stumpSeveral more exotic trees are scheduled to be removed. After all, the purpose of the project is to restore Aquarena Center to its original habitat.


Construction site
The old dive shack is gone

1/13/12 Deconstruction of the Dive Shack

The dive shack has been deconstructed. Aquatic Maintenance (AMAN) used the dive shack for storing AMAN equipment. Everything from machetes and tools to scuba gear and the compressor were stored in the dive shack. Fortunately, plans are underway for a new facility that will accommodate the needs of AMAN and Diving for Science Volunteers alike. 


Habitat Restoration Photo Gallery

1/10/12 Glass Bottom Boat Tours

Progress continues to be made on the Habitat Restoration Project.  While I will continue to blog about the construction and deconstruction on this site, the best way to see the transformation is to take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour.  Access on the peninsula is strictly prohibited, but Glass Bottom Boat Tours continue.  I encourage everyone to take a tour and witness the transformation. 


Deconstruction of the Visitors Center & Gift Shop

excavator tears down visitor centerConstruction workers used an excavator to start tearing down the old Visitors Center and Gift Shop today.  The old building was quickly turned into a large pile of debris.
excavator tears down visitor center
Debris piling up
Excavator tears down Visitor CenterMeanwhile, near the headwaters of the San Marcos River, construction workers continue to make progress on the new Visitors Center and Gift Shop Buildings. 



Deconstruction of the Sky Ride Cables

Equipment Construction workers used a cable winch today to remove the Sky Ride gondola cables that stretched across Spring Lake.  The winch was used to adjust the tension and wind up the cable.  
sky ride
Sky Ride
Construction workersSince the cable hung over the Lake, Glass Bottom Boat tours were temporarily suspended so the cable could be removed safely. Construction workers still need to remove another set of cables that are attached to the gondola launching pad, where Buck Winn's sculptures used to be.


Tracter Trailer
Truck hauling away debris

1/4/12 Removing Debris

The Holidays brought a brief interruption in the Habitat Restoration Project, but work has now resumed. Tractor trailers can be seen daily entering and exiting the peninsula hauling away debris. With an excavator, construction workers are able to deconstruct the old facilities from Aquarena Springs Theme Park quickly, but the removal of debris is a much slower process.  


Deconstruction of the Landing

Excavator tearing down a building With the boom installed, construction workers started tearing down the Landing by hand a few days ago.  Concern for Spring Lake and related ecosystem resulted in this method being adopted rather than solely using heavy equipment.  

The Landing has been deconstructed 
Excavator tearing down a buildingNevertheless, today, after enough of the work had been completed by hand, construction workers were able to finish the job by using an excavator. In this post, the pictures show debris from the Landing being loaded into a dumpster for removal.

Boom around the Landing

12/8/11 Boom Installed

This morning we assisted construction workers with the installation of a boom around the Landing. The boom was installed as a precautionary measure with the purpose of protecting Aquarena’s critical habitat during deconstruction.  The Landing will primarily be deconstructed by hand near the waters edge.  However, parts of the structure, not near the water, will be removed by heavy equipment.

Deconstruction of the Aquarium


ExcavatorA few days ago a flatbed tractor trailer transported an excavator onto the peninsula to begin the deconstruction of the old theme park buildings.  In addition to the boom installation, the deconstruction  of the Aquarium started today.

Deconstruction of the Aquarium

ExcavatorConstruction workers use an excavator to tear down the Aquarium. The demolition took only a few hours.







Building construction
The new visitors center & ticket booth

11/1/11 New Visitor Center

Construction workers are hard at work on the new visitor center and ticket booth buildings.  Progress is being made daily.

The old queue

10/27/11 Queue Removed & Saved

Construction workers removed the old pavilions or queue line today. When Aquarena was a theme park, the pavilions provided shelter for guests waiting to enter the submersible underwater theatre (commonly known as the sub). Like the Buck Winn sculptures, the pavilions are being saved for future use. Austin Independent School District will eventually use the pavilions to provide shelter for students waiting at the bus stop.

Volunteers working
Volunteers removing hyacinth

10/22/11 SMRF Volunteers

While volunteer Diving for Science is temporarily suspended for the duration of the Habitat Restoration Project, other volunteer opportunities exist.  Volunteers with the San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) came to the park today to remove hyacinth, an invasive species, from Sink Creek.  The removal of invasive species allows native species to flourish, which is important to preserving the ecosystem.  Thank you San Marcos River Foundation for your hard work and dedication. 


dump truck
Dumping hyacinth in compost pile

If you are interested in volunteering with the San Marcos River Foundation, please contact Dianne Wassenich, Executive Director, of the San Marcos River Foundation. Dianne’s phone and email are 512-353-4628 and wassenich@grandecom.net

The fence is up

10/7/11 Fence Installed

The fence is up.  Workers have finished fencing off the area of the park where the restoration will soon begin.  Access to the old facilities is now prohibited. 

Aquatic Maintenance Trailer

10/5/11 AMAN Trailer

Aaron and Taylor picked up the aquatic maintenance trailer today. Since moving out of the old facilities and into Texas River Center, storage space has been limited. The trailer will help ease the transition and allow aquatic maintenance operations to continue during the project.

9/21/11 Ground Breaking Ceremony

Today was the ground breaking ceremony. Speakers included Texas State University President Denise Trauth, Texas Parks & Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.  

9/9/11 Moving Day

Today we moved the Aquatic Maintenance offices to the Texas River Center (old hotel). Please pardon our mess as we are in a period of transition.    

8/11/11 Buck Winn Sculptures Removed & Saved

After much debate, the Buck Winn sculptures were removed from the park today and returned to the Winn family.  A helicopter flew the sculptures, which were suspended by tag lines, to the Winn Family’s Ranch in Wimberley.  Many were sad to see the cultural artifacts removed, yet many were happy when they learned that the cultural artifacts would be preserved.