The High Plains Environmental Center Story

Disturbed upland areas on the property were re-seeded with slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and green needlegrass (Nassella viridula) and blend seamlessly with the adjacent environmental center. All of this indicates an increased level of sophistication in the design and creation of open space. Previously a landscape architect might have simply written “dry land seed mix” in this open space. Such mixes often contain invasive non-native grass species such as crested wheat grass, orchard grass, smooth brome and intermediate wheat grass.

Continuing around the lake, this osprey platform is a great example of how what we do at HPEC is not conservation (preserving what exists already) but rather restoration (creating new opportunities for nature in the midst of development). The platform was built by community volunteers in 2006 and has been inhabited by a successfully breeding pair of ospreys ever since.

On the west side of Equalizer Lake, where there is a 300 foot setback between the wetland edge and the trail, is our highest value habitat area. This is an area exclusively reserved for wildlife with no public access. One of our first large scale restoration projects came on a cold April day in 2009 when 200 individuals with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado planted 1000 trees and shrubs with a high value to wildlife in order to create a thicket to screen the wildlife area from the trail.

 

This 10 acre area is not all protected though and we feel that it’s essential to allow children in particular to have access to nature. The northern portion of this protected meadow is a “Wild Zone.” Inspired by Richard Louve’s groundbreaking book Last Child in the Woods, in which the author correlates the lack of unstructured time spent in nature with the epidemic of ADD/ADHD, the wild zone affords children this opportunity. Every year thousands of kids get to experience the wild zone first hand through our summer day camps and through school visits. In 2011, we had 2200 students from local schools visit HPEC and we like to think that we are contributing to the inspiration of a new generation of land stewards.