GALLERY: Swimmers enjoy Jacob’s Well on a hot day in June 2012. PHOTOS by PATRICK LEWIS
WIMBERLEY — More than eight years after commissioners first appropriated $3 million in parks bond money to preserve a storied artesian spring near Woodcreek, Hays County will celebrate the grand opening of the Jacob’s Well Natural Area on Saturday, May 10.
Jacob’s Well — the headwaters of Cypress Creek which flows through downtown Wimberley before pouring into the Blanco River — has been a source of fascination for Wimberley Valley residents since it was “discovered” by early settlers William W. Moon and William C. Winters in the 1850s. They described a “crevice in the creek bed which was overflowing with an abundance of clear, cool water as ‘like unto a well in Bible times,’” according to a 2001 article by Louie Bond.
In 2005, the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association secured a $2 million private loan and a $1 million gift to buy 46 acres, including the well and the upper-most stretch of Cypress Creek. In February 2008, the Hays County Commissioners Court voted to give $3 million of voter-approved parks bond money to the watershed association to pay off the loan and to continue the well’s preservation.
The watershed association’s hold on the property was short-lived. In August 2010, the group conveyed about 31 acres of the property to the county, including the well itself, through an agreement under which the association was to serve as the well’s caretaker for five years and keep the remaining 15 acres as its base of operations.
Later that year, the commissioners court voted to buy about 50 acres adjoining the natural area for $1.7 million from Westridge Joint Ventures, a company that had ensnared the watershed association and the city of Woodcreek in a protracted legal battle over plans to develop its property as a residential resort. The purchase was funded by another $850,000 in parks bond money, originally designated for the city of Kyle, and a $850,000 loan from The Nature Conservancy.
“This preserve is a good investment by the taxpayers of Hays County. It’s a wonderful recreational area for families… It serves as an educational facility for current and future generations to learn about the Wimberley Valley ecosystem and the importance of our natural resources. And it helps our business climate by encouraging tourism which is our area’s largest economic asset,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said.
In July 2012, when the commissioners court adopted a master plan for preservation of the 81.5-acre Jacob’s Well Natural Area, they also decided to end the watershed association’s formal management role under a “with cause” provision of the 2010 contract.
Since then, the county has begun a partial implementation of the master plan including demolition of the former Woodcreek North Property Owners Association building and eight condo units and removal of asphalt streets, utilities and concrete pads that used to form a mobile home park. An “interpretive garden” has been planted at the Nature Center, which is undergoing renovations. And hike and bike trails have been added to the 40-plus acres that form the Uplands area of the preserve.
The natural area is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Volunteers from the Hays County Master Naturalists offer guided tours at 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
Jacob’s Well Natural Area Grand Opening
221 Woodacre Drive, Wimberley | Map
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 10