Midland County is home to a beautiful nature preserve encompassing 100 acres of riparian forest campus. The I-20 Wildlife Preserve is not a park, it is a wild area that is managed by a non-profit organization. The purpose of this nature preserve is to conserve, restore, educate, and research the surrounding wildlife and areas as well as provide a place to enjoy the outdoors.
The I-20 Nature Preserve has an urban playa lake that takes up 86 acres as well as floodplain thickets and prairie grasslands. It provides a habitat for an abundance of wildlife, avian, and aquatic creatures. The freshwater aquatic biome of the nature preserve is home to a diverse bunch of different species. At the edge of the playa you can find rabbits and pocket gophers tunneling through the plants and make sure you stop to see the dragonflies and flycatchers capturing various insects above egrets and sandpipers. Along the playas marshes you’re sure to see a raccoon or bobcat patrolling the area. Be on the lookout for turtles, lizards, snakes and other reptiles that live in the preserve.
As a plentiful focal point for biodiversity, the playa lake located inside of the I-20 Wildlife preserve is surrounded by prairie grasses, feral forest, and urban ponds. A playa lake is a type of rounded, hollow body of water that is only present at certain times of the year and found throughout the High Plains. These lakes are sources to recharge the Ogallala aquifer that is being rapidly depleted.
The I-20 Wildlife Preserve’s land management team practices conservatory efforts to preserve the vigorous nature surrounding the urban playa environment and foster opportunities for education on wildlife. The safe removal of plants invasive in nature opens the area to a more diverse biome of avian and aquatic life. It also helps keep native plants and animals protected so they may continue to thrive.
The I-20 Wildlife Preserve offers a few different programs including an education program, citizen science, wildspace wellness, and volunteer opportunities. The education program allows for a hands-on learning experience to discover all there is to know about the playa habitat. These programs are free of cost to the age groups designated for each set of curriculum. The citizen science program is one that helps the preserve learn more about the species who frequent the area. There are over 900 identified species that visit the area and in an effort to record even more, the I-20 Wildlife Preserve encourages people to visit and write down their observations.
Another program offered by the preserve is the wildspace wellness outdoor wellness classes. These are also free to the public, but donations are encouraged. No matter your level of fitness, there are classes for everyone. You can also volunteer for different opportunities at the nature preserve. If you are interested in landscaping, you can volunteer to join the land management crew. If you want to gain and spread more knowledge about the preserve and the nature surrounding it, you can volunteer as an instructional docent. If you are interested in helping out with general duties and looking to support the other programs, you can volunteer to be part of the administrative team.
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Map from The I-20 Wildlife Preserve & Jenna Welch Nature Study Center to NetOps:
Map from The I-20 Wildlife Preserve & Jenna Welch Nature Study Center to Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center: