Two seniors are making their voices heard in the fate of Aquarena Center.
Julia Juarez, interdisciplinary studies senior and Sarah Hightower, physical geography senior, are petitioning for more information on structure plans at Aquarena Center, and how its demolition will affect Spring Lake and surrounding environments.
Juarez and Hightower set up a table Wednesday in The Quad where they handed out fliers and gathered names for a petition. They plan to continue collecting signatures in The Quad and present the document to university administration.
Texas State bought the former Aquarena Springs Resort in 1994. The Campus Master Plan calls for removal of all man-made park attractions to restore the area to a “natural state.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been hired to remove old structures. Demolition was scheduled to begin last semester, but was postponed. Construction of a new visitors’ center is planned for completion by next year.
Jaurez said she has a six-page list of names of campus and community members who would like their voices heard in the decisions involving Aquarena Center. Juarez hosted open meetings at Tantra Coffeehouse March 30 and Thursday evenings to gather feedback.
“There was something inside of me that told me this was kind of a big deal and not just something to be taken lightly,” Juarez said. “I thought the meetings went really well, and this whole experience has been great because Aquarena is something everyone can relate to.”
Lee Stephenson, legal studies graduate student, attended the Wednesday meeting because he had heard of the demolition of current structures and was interested in learning more about the project.
“This is not only about water and ecology, but also about institutional control,” Stephenson said. “It is frightening when there is a disconnect between an institution and its people. I think the community should have an impact on the direction and future of the Aquarena Center.”
Juarez said the meetings proved beneficial as they provided her with insight on plans for Aquarena Center and more opinions from other people. Juarez and Hightower plan to continue raising awareness in The Quad and speak toabout the importance of getting involved in Texas State’s ultimate decision for the site.
Hightower said she is proud of the efforts her roommate has made to raise awareness of the issue.
Hightower and Juarez are concerned about how tearing down the structures will affect the environment. Hightower said she feels the old attractions have historical significance.
“If I had it my way, they would reopen the theme park,” Hightower said. “It’s a good place in my opinion, and it means just as much to me as anyone who grew up here.”
Hightower said she has often visited the hillside overlooking Spring Lake through an unlocked gate behind the property. She said although some structures have deteriorated beyond repair, others could serve as museums and fulfill the educational purpose by showing visitors what used to exist at the site.
Juarez and Hightower said they are interested in finding a way to preserve the Buck Winn sculptures located at the entrance of the park. The sculptures, constructed in 1963, were built to represent morning glories and shade theme park visitors waiting to board the cable car ride.
“They are pieces of art and of Texas history,” Juarez said. “I feel they are really important to save, and as an educational institution, we should acknowledge the significance of someone’s artwork and not just store it in a warehouse.”
Juarez and Hightower said efforts to influence Aquarena Center’s fate will be ongoing. Hightower plans to continue her involvement in the project even after graduation.