The Center will foster early childhood development, oversee the K-12 curriculum, guide higher education research, and inspire the citizen science community. The Center will also operate the recently formed Playa Wetlands Research Institute dedicated to the preservation of playa-based research spanning the Ogallala Aquifer.
The Preserve is an 100-acre living laboratory where students and faculty can actively participate in an authentic science experience to reveal the mysteries of this unique urban playa habitat. Our curriculum is a model of expert fieldwork and spurs the scientific curiosity of students who will make meaningful contributions to the next generation of sciences.
Every year our volunteers dedicate hundreds of work hours to the Preserve and in doing so strengthen their civic connection to the most significant green space in Midland. This wholehearted devotion reflects a bond between people and place that allows our visitors to explore and interpret the Preserve together – as a community – and to honor the urban playa as both economically and ecologically valuable.
The new 24,000+ sq.ft. nature study facility will be the only “Living Building Challenge” within a 360-mile radius and will include administrative office suites, citizen science and curriculum-based classrooms, research laboratories, the Playa Wetlands Research Institute, and vibrant community spaces. To us, the meaningful act of connecting with nature fosters a sense of place and balances a healthy lifestyle.
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The I-20 Wildlife Preserve is a 100-acre riparian forest campus in Midland, Texas. It is a wild space – not a park – managed by a nonprofit organization. The 86-acre urban playa lake is the highlight of the wetlands, floodplain thickets, and prairie grasslands – providing abundant avian, wildlife, and aquatic habitat. The urban playa at the Preserve is a treasured ecotourism destination of regional significance and a science education resource of the Permian Basin.
The Preserve's freshwater aquatic biome plays host to a diversity of species. Pocket gophers and rabbits tunnel through plants at the water’s edge. Flycatchers and dragonflies capture insects over the heads of sandpipers and egrets. Mammals like raccoons and bobcats patrol the playa's marshes. Amphibians find habitat in the small ponds and reptiles like turtles, lizards, and snakes make the preserve home.
A playa lake is an ephemeral wetland found across the High Plains. These features are shallow, clay-lined basins that are a primary source of recharge for the Ogallala aquifer- a vast but rapidly depleted source of groundwater vital to life in the semi arid plains. The urban playa lake of the I-20 Wildlife Preserve, with its surrounding feral forest, prairie grasses, and ponds is a rich center for biodiversity.
Our holistic land management practice works to conserve the vibrant nature of the urban playa environment and create opportunities for outdoor and wildlife education. Careful removal of invasive plant species opens the watershed to a greater biodiversity of aquatic and avian wildlife, fortifies the ecological integrity of native plants and animals, and maintains the wild space for future generations to enjoy.
Recreational features at the preserve include foot trails, an aerial observation deck, bird blinds, outdoor education platforms, a butterfly garden, and insectarium.
The preserve is a wild space that supports ambitious learning programs and encourages personal wellness pursuits. The meaningful act of connecting with nature fosters a sense of place and balances a healthy lifestyle. Visitors can enjoy bird watching, nature photography, and opportunities for outdoor exercise.
Perched above the forest canopy in the quiet northeast corner of the preserve the hawk tower allows visitors to experience an unobstructed view of the playa. This southerly vista opens up to reveal a birds-eye-view of the wildlife below and is a favorite roost for bird watchers and landscape photographers alike.
The preserve is used year-round by the community as a well-loved outdoor recreation destination. Timeworn hiking trails immerse visitors in their natural surroundings and wooden boardwalks allow for passage over wetland areas. Peaceful mornings and sunny afternoons make trail running an energizing everyday wellness activity.