Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
|Cypress Creek Sep. 2011|
Saturday, February 18, 2012
- How to best preserve and restore the site to demonstrate land and water stewardship
- Best way to provide safe public access and ensure protection of the sensitive natural landscape
- Whether or not to permit overnight camping
- Restrictions on bicycles & dogs in the preserve
- How to manage fencing, signage and boundary identification
- Managing access while making the property as open as possible
- Methods to protect and rehabilitate the wetlands and the riparian area along the creek
- How to restore the area around the spring and manage access to Jacob's Well
- Entry points, impervious cover restrictions, parking capacity & location
The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association , with the help of Hays County, has removed nearly four acres of impervious cover from the site. RVI landscape and architectural planners, Chris Lalitch and Barbara Austin, are assessing the need to remove existing impervious cover before any new structures or parking areas are added. Site restrictions on impervious cover will limit what is built in the future. All structures will incorporate rainwater harvesting and energy efficient design; every effort is being made to use natural pervious materials for nature trails and parking areas to allow water to seep back into the aquifer.
Lalitch and Austin summarized the open house presentation and introduced some new sketches of how buildings might be designed with approximations of where the structures may be located. They also confirmed that there will be two, possibly three, entry points for the preserve. The preliminary plans allow for a total of 32 parking spaces and three school buses.
There are not plans to fence around the entire property. Lalitch said that currently there are plans to fence approximately 3,000 feet of the property around the riparian area designated as zone 9 (the southernmost section in the flood zone) and there will be some restricted use. Boundary markers made out of cedar, recycled materials, stone and native plantings may be used along Mt. Sharp Road.
JWNA consists of nine distinct planning “zones” – from the mostly wild, upland area (about 35 acres) in zone one all the way down to Jacob’s Well and the riparian area around Cypress Creek. Each one of these zones is being planned for restoration according to its unique characteristics. Zone one is expected to be left largely undisturbed with some trails, a possible bird tower and a wildlife viewing areas to accommodate bird watchers, wildlife researchers and visitors walking from local neighborhoods.
The main entrance will be off of Mt. Sharp Road and will lead to a bluff in Zone 2 with wide unobstructed views and an overlook. RVI envisions a partially enclosed “Stewardship Center” here, nestled into the hillside. It will be energy efficient and facing southwest for natural ventilation in the summer. The indoor and outdoor environments in this structure will be knitted together and the estimated size of the structure is 3,400 square feet which includes a covered terrace. There will also be two adjacent indoor restrooms, a storage area, office space, kitchen & catering facilities and possible retail space.
The “Stewardship Center” will act as the central hub for visitors to the natural area and serve as a center for community education and watershed research. The structure will be surrounded by educational kiosks with natural outdoor seating, beehives, bat houses and “play trails,” an innovative concept that encourages kids to explore along a trail. The “Playscapes” themselves will be nature-oriented with organic rather than man made materials.
Winton Porterfield, of Wimberley Springs Partners, expressed his desire for exhibits to illustrate the unique historical and cultural history of the area and think creatively about how to present the water education exhibits. David Baker, executive director for the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, also suggested an archeological assessment of the Native American artifacts on the property in order to incorporate additional information of historical significance; the other stakeholders present agreed with the suggestions made.
Hays County legal counsel Mark Kennedy said the property will be handicap accessible, according to ADA standards. Currently, the county is leaning towards a sun-up to sun-down policy for the preserve. The southern entrance at Camp Jacob will remain open during the day to accommodate local residents and will have a few parking spaces and bike racks. Biking to the preserve is encouraged; in order to preserve the trails and wildlife, biking will not be permitted within the natural area. Mayor of Woodcreek, Eric Eskeland, mentioned the need for more planning to connect trails for the residents from Woodcreek who enjoy walking to the well. Stating a vision for one day connecting the Winters Parkway Trail from Blue Hole to Jacob's Well.
Hays County has established a web site to track the progress of the Jacob's Well Natural Area master plan. http://www.co.hays.tx.us
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
RVI, a landscape planning consultant firm located in Austin, is in the process of creating a Master Plan for the Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Their task is to interpret the community’s vision for the site. RVI recently held a forum at the Wimberley Community Center that welcomed public input on the development and management of the property. With the addition of interviews of stakeholders such as county and WVWA staff, JWNA volunteers, and a committee of local representatives, RVI has created the first phase of the plan. You can follow the progress on the Hays County’s website: http://www.co.hays.tx.us/jacobswell.
This ongoing and open dialogue has generated some considerations that WVWA would like to share. After years on the ground, WVWA can offer parameters that fully represent the best of our ongoing work and research. But no matter what your ideas or concerns may be, please take the time to add to this vision.
WVWA feels that in light of the current water climate and growing population pressures, the decision to restore the 100 acres back to a perfectly balanced ecosystem is an idea whose time has come. Jacob’s Well has long been a site of great beauty and wonder, and a place held sacred by past cultures that have lived on its banks. Today it still is at the heart of the Wimberley Valley.
We would like to see the site identified and developed as a natural heritage site, maintained as a nature preserve and not a recreational park, and function as a place where both children and adults can connect with nature. Although we all enjoy camping, dogs, sports, and bicycling, these are high-impact activities and are not recommended as they will overrun the site’s sensitive resources. The conservation easements currently in place will help insure that land and water conservation comes first.
The focus of visitors to Jacob’s Well should be one of immersion in nature, which inevitably leads to joy, and is naturally followed by a sense of stewardship. Access by trails would invite discovery in an unstructured style that sparks the imagination. The Children in Nature movement has pointed out that American children are averaging 7 minutes a day in time out-of-doors, which has led to a host of stressed behaviors. The same is true for adults - time spent in nature serves to alleviate a deeply seated sense of disconnection we feel with the natural order of things.
WVWA envisions the only new structure to be a stewardship center, to share the extensive knowledge we have gained from living so close to the aquifer. Built with the green building practices of wind and solar energy, rainwater harvesting, water re-use and waterless toilets, the building would not only sit lightly on the land, but serve as a model for sustainable design. There would be no additional structures, not even kiosks, but in fact further “undeveloping” of the site by lessening the current amount of impervious cover and removing any buildings in the flood plain.
The site has been severely impacted by development and over grazing in the past and is need of restoration. Priority should be placed on enhancing plant diversity, aquifer recharge, protecting water quality, and creating wildlife habitat.
Facilities and funding should be provided for the valuable scientific research that happens at the site. It is this research that has enabled us to make these specific recommendations. Partnerships with local organizations, volunteer groups, schools, and universities should also be supported, as with developing a formal relationship with Texas State’s River Systems Institute. All partners should be actively involved in developing a groundwater management program that protects not only the flow of Jacob’s Well, but all Wimberley Valley aquifer springs, even in times of drought.
Please write, call, or email your comments to:
RVI Planning Team
712 Congress Ave, Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78701