Editor's note: This story is part of a monthly series Community Impact will run through the 50th anniversary of The Woodlands in October 2024 highlighting the community.

Part of George Mitchell’s original vision for The Woodlands community involved preserving a substantial amount of green space—a vision which has resulted in leaving 28% of the available land undeveloped, including areas like the 1,700-acre George Mitchell Nature Preserve.

Since its opening in 2007, the George Mitchell Nature Preserve has been a part of realizing Mitchell's vision of conservation while creating an area for the public to enjoy the natural environment, said Kelly Dietrich, director of planning and development for Howard Hughes, which owns the preserve.

“It was part of the vision when The Woodlands launched,” Dietrich said. “We still keep that vision alive today for sustainability and stewardship.”

The context

Work on the preserve began through a partnership between Montgomery County, The Woodlands Land Development Company—now Howard Hughes—and The Woodlands Township in 2003, Dietrich said.

The north side of the preserve was developed first, with trails beginning at the Flintridge Road trailhead where parking is available. Work continued as the Village of Creekside Park was launched in 2007, and the south side of the preserve was developed in partnership with Harris County, the Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association and the Bayou Land Conservancy, a land trust with conservation easement agreements on the south side, Dietrich said.

A pedestrian bridge connects both sides of the preserve, which is bisected by Spring Creek, an unimproved creek that is part of a watershed that drains a 284-square-mile region, Dietrich said.

The creek has been left in its natural state, said Dan Kolkhorst, vice president of land development with Howard Hughes.

"We have allowed nature to take its course," Kolkhorst said.

In 2017, in partnership with the Bayou Land Conservancy, the 13-mile unpaved Spring Creek Nature Trail was developed in the preserve, with the last piece connected to Burroughs Park in 2019, Dietrich said.

The details

Visitors to the preserve can access features, including:What’s next

In 2022, The Woodlands Township approved an interlocal agreement with Harris County providing $5 million for additional work on the paved Spring Creek Greenway to fund bridges and crossings as the path winds through the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. The greenway runs parallel to the unpaved nature trail. Work on that project was expected to wrap in 2025-26, officials said at the time. As of January, a timeline had not been developed, said Chris Nunes, chief operating officer in The Woodlands, in an email. Within The Woodlands, the greenway will run from Creekside Park West to Gosling Road.