Hill Country residents are worried developers will scar the area’s scenic hill tops, and one town has decided to do something about it.
Mostly pickups, SUVS and bikers drive down the scenic main drag of the little town of Wimberley, about an hour’s drive from San Antonio.
Councilwoman Christine Byrne said the city has a cool vibe.
“Wimberley is kind of a small, rural community right outside of Austin,” she said. “Very artsy. We love our natural spaces. We are blessed to have the Cypress Creek and the Blanco running right through Wimberley.”
Locals are proud the community is nestled at the base of what they believe to be some of the most beautiful hills found in the region.
Wimberley Councilwoman Christine Byrne said two particular hills really stand out.
“When you drive into Wimberley from San Marcos, two very iconic hills you see are of course, Old Baldy and the sister mountain, which is Mount Edith, and we just don’t want to see development,” she said.
Residents are worried that developers might snatch up Mount Edith. It’s privately owned, and the owners are selling it for around $6 million. City officials said they asked the owners if they wished to donate the land, and they declined.
And that gave Richard Shaver, programs and operations director of Wimberley’s Park Department, an idea: What if Wimberley bought Mount Edith and turned it into a park to keep developers off it?
It’s not a new idea. He said the city already turned Mount Baldy into a city park, thanks to the generosity of two residents.
“Two citizens came together and they formed the Save Mount Baldy Foundation when it came up for sale, and they just didn’t want to see it developed into homes or anything like that, and so they came together and then the city bought it from that foundation,” Shaver said.
But he said buying Mount Edith would be handled a bit differently.
“A better example might be Blue Hole Regional Park, which is a city-owned park here in Wimberley and it was acquired by donations and grants and partnerships, and it all equaled out to about $3 million,” Shaver said.
The city council liked Shaver’s idea and passed a resolution to formally launch the effort to try and raise the money to buy Mount Edith. Shaver said many residents support the effort, too.
Wimberley Mayor Susan Jaggers warned there would be some long-term costs if the city took over the hill.
“It has good public support because everyone wants to have more parks and less congestion, but having and affording it and who’s gonna pay for it and who’s gonna maintain it because maintenance is not free,” she said.
Wimberley residents seem wary of development in general.
City officials said the city budget is only around $1 million. According to the city website, there is no property tax and only a 1% sales tax on goods sold in Wimberley support city government. Sewer treatment is very limited and incapable of supporting large growth. Jaggers said there is no city police force -- the county handles dispatched calls.
For now, Shaver is in a race against time. He’s trying to turn public support into enough financial support to buy Mount Edith before a private buyer with the right offer beats the city to the summit.