Monday, January 23, 2012

Wimberley Residents Weigh in on Master Planning for Jacob's Well Natural Area

Wimberley residents shared their ideas on how best to preserve and share with the public the Jacob’s Well Natural Area when RVI, the landscape architects hired by Hays County to plan the recently acquired 80+ acres around the well, held an open house at the Wimberley Community Center last Thursday.
It was the first time the public got an overview of how the nature preserve might look and heard some of the proposals about what kinds of activities and exhibits will be there.  Just over 50 people, not including presenters Barbara Austin and Chris Lalitch of RVI and architect Nathan Quiring of the Clayton & Little architectural firm, attended the open house.  Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said he thought “the response was overwhelmingly positive” and that finding common ground between the wide range of groups represented in Hays County can sometimes be a challenge.

The presentation laid out the main goals of the  preserve to protect the well and restore the natural area, construct wetlands and habitats for native plants and wildlife, to provide environmental education to the public and a place for the community to gather and recreate.  Everyone agreed that the conservation easement required that the natural habitat of the site be protected and restored and the less invasive the “development” of the land the better. Hiking trails will allow water to seep back into the aquifer and parking will be pervious and any impervious  cover will be severely limited and provide for rainwater catchment on all buildings. .

RVI broke the property up into nine zones and proposed possible ways to best utilize them.  Beginning from the highest elevation to the furthest north they are:

Zone 1 – primarily wild undisturbed uplands, thought to be a good place for bird watching and hiking
Zone 2 – the most easily accessible entry point off Mt. Sharp Road, the site for the Stewardship Center
Zone 3 – prairie rehabilitation, nature trail with educational kiosks/ rest stops and possible rain gardens
Zone 4 – continuation of the trail with more rest stops, recycled furnishings, forest & land management
Zone 5 – environmental restoration and research, possible labs, study or exhibition areas
Zone 6 – more restoration and research, overlook, improve parking & capture/filter run-off
Zone 7 – informational signage for Jacob’s Well, bank restoration, deck, classroom and overlook
Zone 8 – riparian zone alongside Cypress Creek will be fenced to limit access, nature trail with rest stops
Zone 9 – day use “recharge zone,” large open space for picnics, bike racks and improved parking area

Although there may be some additional structures built on the property, Quiring said they will be designed  using as much “green” technology as possible and leave a “net zero” carbon footprint.  Some of the proposed buildings include a stewardship center to house the main visitor center, a multi-use meeting area with a catering kitchen, restrooms and a covered picnic area.

Lalitch said RVI is not laying out plans for structures at this stage.  “We are in the program stage of the planning.”  They’re deciding what goes where based on input gathered from various sources, including the public.  RVI conducted a site analysis during the months of October and November in 2011 and presented their preliminary findings to the stakeholder’s group just before Thanksgiving to plan and oversee the project. What they learned in that phase provided the basis for the Thursday’s presentation.

 Conley said they already have $400 thousand dedicated to the project and Hays County Commissioner’s Court voted to approve surveying the property in the near future.  Somewhere down the line, he said he’d like to have a satellite of the River System’s Institute on the property. That will most likely find a home in the area currently known as “Camp Jacob.”

With the public’s input, RVI is now entering the preliminary master planning phase which will continue for a few more weeks. They anticipate completing and refining the final plan by the end of March.  Interested residents who may have missed the open house are invited to contact RVI, Clayton & Little or Commissioner Conley to submit their ideas and comments on the future plans at the    Jacob’s Well Natural Area.

Contact Information:

RVI Planning + Landscape Architecture
712 Congress Avenue
Suite 300
Austin, Texas  78701
(512) 480-0032

Clayton & Little
1001 East 8th Street
Austin, Texas  78702
(512) 477-1727

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