Today’s blog comes from Michael Cannatti, the Board President of Friends of Barton Springs Pool, which is one of our 2016 campaign beneficiaries. The mission of FBSP is to create a community of people dedicated to restoring, improving and maintaining the pool and surrounding grounds through organizing, advocacy, volunteer work, education and fun.

Why is your organization participating in 2016’s Give 5 campaign?

Friends of Barton Springs Pool has a long history of collaborating with other Austin environmental nonprofits who dedicate their time and energy to making Central Texas a better place.   Organized around the celebration of “Mother Earth Day,” the “Give 5% to Mother Earth” campaign has become a substantial source of annual fundraising for Friends of Barton Springs Pool to support our work to restore, improve and maintain Barton Springs Pool and surrounding grounds through organizing, advocacy, volunteer work, education and fun.

Why are initiatives like Give 5 so important to the Austin community?

In addition to raising funds to support the environmental work and good deeds of participating nonprofits, the Give 5% campaign also raises the profile of each participating organization, letting more people know about their work and providing opportunities for volunteers to support and engage with environmental causes.  However, this is not merely some abstract benefit, but is specific ally important to Austin because, as noted by Mayor Steve Adler, “our commitment to our environment” is our community’s “most important asset.”

What are pressing challenges facing our natural environment in Central Texas? How do you think Give 5 and its partner orgs can play a role in addressing these challenges?

Our environment (including our parks, springs, streams, and  Barton Springs) make Austin special, providing shade and cool waters for socializing and relief from the Texas heat to generations of Austinites and visitors.  And it is our commitment to our environment that makes Austin special and unique.  However, rapid population growth and development pressure threaten our environment.  For example, development and proposed highway construction threatens the Hill Country streams and springs that feed Barton Springs, and have also taken their toll on Austin’s favorite swimming hole, Barton Springs Pool.  With well over 1.5 million visitors to Barton Springs and Zilker Park last year, the Austin MSA population reached 2M in 2015 and is increasing exponentially.

With Austin’s growth, we are at an important juncture with our environment.  On the one hand, heavy use, increased park attendance, and development pressure have damaged and deteriorated the environment and threatened the water quality and decreased spring flows in our parks.  On the other hand, there are opportunities now to enhance the visitor experience, to educate visitors about water quality and environmental protection, and to convey a sense of our community values embodied in our natural park spaces.

This is the time for Give 5% and its partner organizations address these challenges and opportunities by working to harness Austin’s growth to do big things to protect the environment.  We believe that the best way to preserve our environmental treasures, such as the Hill Country and Barton Springs, is through public outreach which dramatically increases our education efforts to match the increase in population.

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