MIDLAND COUNTY, Texas — Twelve years ago, the I-20 Wildlife Preserve was founded. But it's turned into much more than just a place to explore and appreciate nature.
"We have four main programs: our education program, our land management program, our green and blue space wellness program and the Playa Wetlands Research Institute," said Elaine Magruder, Board Director for I-20 Wildlife preserve.
But Magruder says each program wants to dive deeper and have more of an impact, not only for this community but all of west Texas.
"We have right now an average of 544 visitors a week. But our vision moving forward for the center, is to provide space for the Playa Wetlands Research Institute. We want it to be a repository for research that's been done through many different states, but there's no research localized in one spot," said Magruder.
But Magruder says besides additional research, the perks to having an additional building are endless.
"A lot of the community have asked for more event space. So we're planning an area where we'll have food truck space instead of a café and an outdoor garden eating area. And we'll have classrooms for our education program, a developing butterfly meadow with an insectarium which will be designed after the one at Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife center in Austin," said Magruder.
The preserve's efforts have raised over a million dollars so far, but Magruder says it will take an additional 18 to 24 months to really get the shovel in the ground and start seeing their vision come to life.
"Sort of the center of all of this is really providing a sense of place. So many people have moved to Midland and they're living in hotels and they're living in RV campers; even Midlanders have lost a sense of place because we have changed so much through these last few years. And I think that getting outdoors and understanding our little corner of Texas in a better deeper way. Just being in nature helps people be healthier and smarter," said Magruder.