Tribute to Joe Day

The Wimberley Valley and Texas Hill Country benefit from conservation successes made possible because of passionate individuals like Joe Day.  Last week, we lost this water protector, land steward, and champion for groundwater conservation to complications caused by cancer.

Surveying the Wimberley Valley at sunset from Mt. Joe. Photo credit: Ray Don Tilley.

From the mid-1990s, Joe focused his insight and expertise to further sustainable economic development and environmental protections in the Wimberley Valley.  From discussions that lead to the incorporation of the City of Wimberley to formation of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, from the first time Jacob’s Well stopped flowing to the passage of the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan, and from the formation of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District to the establishment of the Jacob’s Well Groundwater Management Zone, he worked tirelessly to protect what he loved–the land, water, and community here in this little bit of heaven.

Joe dedicated the last 30 years of his life to conservation, much of that through the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association. His contributions to save Jacob’s Well Natural Area, and the Cypress Creek and Blanco River watersheds, is a legacy for future generations and an expression of his brilliant, enduring spirit.

There is no stronger voice than his own to share his perspective, advice, and warnings on the need for conservation in the Hill Country.  The Artesiana podcast captured just that 2020:

Click to link to Artesiana, Episode 3: Joe Day, Brother for Water

Wimberley View Letter to the Editor, 2/17/2022

Remember a ‘passionate protector of the natural environment’

Last week, the Wimberley Valley, Hays County, and the Texas Hill Country lost their passionate protector of the natural environment and champion for groundwater conservation: Joe Day. I was honored that Joe considered me a brother, and for me personally his passing cuts that deeply. We may have sensed for months that this time would come, but even he would not let us speak in the past tense. Until now.

I met Joe in the mid-1990s when we were both working on the incorporation of the City of Wimberley. Joe was instrumental in forming the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association in 1996 and became board president in 2000, the first time in history that Jacob’s Well stopped flowing. With Joe’s background in groundwater hazard detection and remediation, he was acutely aware of the impacts to the environment and the economy of over pumping the Trinity Aquifer and the existential threat groundwater depletion had for Jacob’s Well and Wimberley’s beloved Cypress Creek.

“It’s all mitigation,” he would say. That was not resignation, but a profound understanding that his and our time to steward our land and water is temporary, and that tradeoffs mediating human habitation on sensitive ground would take all the professional prowess that he amassed in his Austin-based hazard mitigation business in the 1980s, and then some.

When Joe and Barbara moved to a mountaintop near Wimberley after Joe retired young, he became a board member of the Wimberley Chamber of Commerce and wrote its first economic development plan, which focused on promoting tourism to the Wimberley Valley through nature-based tourism and art. That proved prescient and lasting.

Joe and Barbara opened their home to the community with Lookout Mountain, offering incredible food and nature tours into the canyon and the extraordinary seven-county view above the Wimberley Valley that Joe loved so much. He would in particular point out the overlooked benefits of Ashe juniper, or mountain cedar, which he cherished in his “cielo del bosque” atop Mt. Joe.

Joe helped form and promote creation of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in 2001 and served as a director for four years. He was instrumental in writing the management plan for HTGCD and had the foresight to establish groundwater management zones to protect spring flow. Joe served later on the stakeholder group that codified the spring flow and established Jacob’s Well Groundwater Management Zone in 2020.

Joe was a child of the Texas Hill Country tirelessly volunteering his time to develop the Regional Water Quality Protection Plan and a rewrite of Hays County subdivision rules. In recent years, Joe served as a founding board member of Protect Our Blanco and on the Blanco Water Reclamation Task Force to prevent wastewater discharge into the Blanco River.

Long ago as a boy, Joe enjoyed hikes and exploring the woods and streams of Rollingwood and Westlake Hills before they were developed, when many roads were still gravel paths. With that same wonder and fascination, he dedicated the last 30 years of his life to conservation. His contributions to save Jacob’s Well Natural Area, and the Cypress Creek and Blanco River watersheds, is a legacy for future generations and an expression of his brilliant, enduring spirit.

David Baker

Joe Day’s obituary documents his many successes, his incredible impact, and giving spirit.

Joseph Campbell Day Obituary

Joe Day had an essential mission. In his own words, he lived “to serve the greater purpose of preserving the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country”. He practiced what he preached. From the lofty heights of his magnificently restored Wimberley, TX hilltop, Mt. Joe, you could see tomorrow and beyond.

Joseph Campbell Day passed peacefully on February 2, 2022 at his home in Wimberley at age 66. The cause was complications from treatment for cancer.

Joe was raised by his mother, Doris Day Swanner, in Rollingwood near the banks of Austin’s crown jewels, Barton Springs and Barton Creek. It was there that he developed his love of the Texas Hill Country and the crystal clear springs that make it special.

Joe Day moved from Austin to Wimberley in 1996 after selling his successful business, Hazcorp Environmental Services. He immediately became involved in local civic affairs. Through the years, Joe was president of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, served on the Executive Committee of the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan, the Blanco Water Reclamation task force, and boards and committees of many organizations involved in the arts and commerce. Joe obtained Master Naturalist certification and led hundreds of visitors through nature walks.

Joe was widely read on the subjects of philosophy, strategic thinking and emerging management theory. His problem solving skills were in great demand and Joe was always willing to help. Joe Day was the most kind and generous person that anyone would ever hope to meet. He truly ‘didn’t have a mean bone in his body’.

Joe was cherished by his family and he regularly accompanied them on vacations and joined them for holiday celebrations. He also had a soft spot for animals. Joe particularly indulged his rescue cat Big Boy, who loyally stayed by Joe’s side until the end.

Joe was preceded in death by his mother (Doris Day Swanner) and his father (James Milton Day). He is survived by his brother Jimmy (Jennifer), niece Meagan and nephews Dakota and Carson. The family extends special thanks to Joe’s ex-wife Barbara Graham and to his friend Chris Christian, both of whom provided essential support.

There will be a memorial service at Mt. Joe, 131 Secret Springs Road in Wimberley, at 2:00 PM on Saturday, February 19. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Wimberley Valley Watershed’ Association