The High Plains Environmental Center Story

Soon a series of stormwater ponds will be dug by the developer on HPEC land. This a great arrangement for both parties because it gets the ponds off of the buildable lots and places high value habitat restoration on HPEC land.

When developers build rooftops, parking lots and other impermeable surfaces, rain and snow melt (stormwater) can no longer percolate into the ground and must be managed in order to prevent flooding. Conventional stormwater ponds provide little or nothing in the way of wildlife habitat, native plant diversity, aesthetic value, recreation or public education.

In 2007-2008 McWhinney (the master developer of Centerra) HPEC, Ark Ecological Services and BHA Landscape Design drafted a document called the stormwater pond and conveyance design guidelines. The guidelines which, provide pond specification that replicate natural wetlands, won a Land Stewardship Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2009.

Under these guidelines stormwater ponds and conveyances in Centerra are designed to replicate the natural contours and structure of wetlands. They have native plants arranged in communities according to available soil moisture, undulating edges vs. linear edges and uneven pond bottoms vs. flat bottoms.

Ponds built in this way can create high value wildlife habitat in the midst of urban and suburban development by replicating the ecological functions of natural wetlands. They improve water quality and removes sediments and toxins by filtering runoff through plant material. This is also a great way to put nature back into the lives of urban people and that has been demonstrated to have positive impact on physical and mental health. If children and adults create a personal connection with open spaces and lakes full of fish, frogs and birds, it is likely that they will become advocates for their stewardship and preservation. So if you count all who benefit, wildlife, people who live and work here, water quality, developer, environmental center, it’s a win, win, win, win, win.

The construction of these ponds also provides an area of interest for visitors and an opportunity for public education and it physically connects Old Canal Park and our Farm and Nursery area.