Habitat restoration at Aquarena Springs wraps up - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Habitat restoration at Aquarena Springs wraps up

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The conversion of a former water theme park into a protected ecosystem is wrapping up.

Along the edge of Texas State University a constant flow of water pours down the San Marcos River

Even on a chilly morning, students like Angie White are drawn here as if pulled in by the swift moving current.

"Oh it's really quite and relaxing and there is not a whole lot of noise and a lot of people don't come out here and gives me time to relax, study and focus," White said.

The river begins less than a block away from the main campus. Crystal clear water rolls out of what is known as Spring Lake and just below the surface is a unique laboratory.

"We like to think of it as possibly the largest classroom we have on campus here," Dr. Michael Abbott, Associate Director of the Meadow's Center for Water and the Environment said.

Dr. Abbott is part of the team rebuilding this urban wetland. The site was once the domain of mermaids. The performers were a big attraction when lake was a popular water theme park. Texas State University acquired the site and has spent $2.5 million converting the old hotel into a research center and the underwater theater into a more natural setting.

"The theme park was certainly an important aspect to the community and the state of Texas and so having those remaining structures taken away, there is a bit of sadness there," Dr. Abbott said.

Glass bottom boat tours still take place on the lake where at least eight different endanger species can be spotted but seed from a ground stabilization project that's still trying to grow will keep the wetlands boardwalk closed until at least spring.

Accounts from early settlers tell us that the springs that fed this lake were so powerful fountains of water shot into the air. The reason why that no longer happens is why the research being done here is so important.

Dive crews routinely have to do underwater gardening to keep the lake bottom clear. Sand swirls mark the spots where spring water from the Edward's Aquifer escapes through a fault line. Monitoring this eco-system especially during times of drought can help researchers learn how to better manage water resources.

"And until you see it see it up close and become a part of it you don't always have the appreciation you need of the importance of this resources and how important it is to maintain," said Dr. Abbott.

A ripple effect that goes far beyond this small lake and the river it feeds.

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