About Us

(updated August 2014)
How We Got Here...

In the late 1960’s, the property which is an 87 acre urban playa lake in its natural state was donated to the City of Midland with the intention of creating a park. However, the city was never able to budget the money for the park. The Midland Naturalists and a cadre of volunteers maintained the preserve for over 20 years. One of these individuals was Jenna Welch, a birding enthusiast and a member of the Midland Naturalists.


In 2006, Paul Davis, Jr. and Elaine Magruder funded a master plan developed by The Rivers Studio, LLC in Austin, Texas. Focus groups were created to develop the master plan by studying, for example: the economic impact and direction for science education and place for recreation. The master plan was approved by the City of Midland in April of 2007 and was divided into three phases:


1. Phase I
Phase I, a conservation phase, is complete. Cattail and Salt Cedar were removed as well as over 2 tons of litter.


2. Phase II
Phase II, a construction phase, is complete. The firms of Rhotenberry Wellen and KDC Associates of Midland, Texas were retained to develop and complete plans and specifications for the design of the new facility. These plans included the design of 3.4 miles of hiking trails, including 1.45 miles of accessible trails, 7 bird observation blinds, 4 teaching platforms, a 2-story tall observation deck, and the Merritt Pavilion at the entrance. To complete Phase II, a $1,000,000 match was pursued and awarded through a Texas Parks and Wildlife Grant.


3. Phase III
Phase III is the construction of the 20,000 square foot Jenna Welch Nature Study Center and currently is in the planning stages. Although there is no facility, the JWNSC collaborates with local schools, area colleges and universities to fulfill the education mission for science and general public education. Land was acquired for the JWNSC in the summer of 2014.


The I-20 Wildlife Preserve and Jenna Welch Nature Study Center was formed in 2007 as a non-profit organization to create a public-private cooperation with the City of Midland Parks & Recreation Department and through a 40 Year Use Agreement the I-20 Wildlife Preserve handles the day-to-day operations of the preserve and study center..


During Phase II, Nathan Knowles was hired as Preserve Land Manager and he later became the first Executive Director of the preserve. In 2010, an Education Program was developed for undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences using the preserve as a living laboratory. In 2011-2012 the preserve was under construction and opened to the public on January 18th, 2013. In 2013, a K-12 Education Program began with Emmy Ulmschneider as the Education Coordinator. Over 1,000 area students have participated in the curriculum which is above the TEKS and STAAR requirements. Also in 2013, a symposium for ranchers and farmers was held concerning the conservation of playa lakes on private lands with the keynote speaker being Midland-native and former First Lady Laura Bush.


In regards to the Board of Directors, new board members replaced 3 of the original board in February 2013. The new board focused on governance and determined a strategic plan. The board entered into a contract with the Non-Profit Management Center to assist with building policies, volunteer handbooks, employee handbooks, and reviewing the by-laws of the organization and the board training manual. The NMC also assisted the organization through a strategic planning process. During this time, the Executive Director was hired away from the organization and once again the NMC assisted us with hiring Michael Price as the new ED in January 2014.


In the early spring of 2014, the I-20 Wildlife Preserve and Jenna Welch Nature Study Center agreed to become part of an incubator program with the Non-Profit Management Center and our office is now located in Midland Shared Spaces and in May 2014, the 3,200 sq.ft. Salehi-Olgin Butterfly Garden was opened to the public by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Midland Chamber of Commerce, Congressman Mike Conaway, Mayor Jerry Morales, and a special appearance by Ms. Jenna Welch.


Currently over 400 people visit the preserve on a weekly basis. We have 20 trained volunteers and docents to assist with operational activities and educational opportunities for the public.


Donor Base:
Donations are the backbone of our funding. In 2013, 30% of the funds were raised from foundations, 34% came from corporations, and 36% was derived from individual donors.