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High Plains Environmental Center

Open Space Management Services

The High Plains Environmental Center manages Open Space for the Centerra Metro District, Residential Developers, HOAs, and other private landowners. Our natural areas program helps to further our goal of “restoring nature where we live, work, and play.” The revenue derived from these services helps to fund our environmental education programs and community outreach.

Our highly qualified staff have expert knowledge in identifying high value native vegetation and distinguishing these plants from weeds. We use selective herbicides, that are relatively low in toxicity, at a fraction of the rate that is used in typical landscaping.


“Two years ago, the native areas throughout Waterfront North were a disaster. Instead of providing tranquil open spaces that showcased the natural beauty of Colorado, they were overrun with bindweed, thistle and other invasive species that had choked out much of the grasses and native plants. Spot spraying certain plants seasonally, cutting down others before they have gone to seed, and reducing mowings to allow grasses to fill and thrive, have made an incredible impact on these areas in a very brief time. Your crew has worked closely with our landscapers to implement these strategies. And High Plains Environmental Center has been an amazing resource in educating our community on protecting these valuable resources. The Waterfront North community is a more beautiful place as a result of your endeavors, and we look forward to our continued partnership.” 

Cindy Guilboard, President – Waterfront North HOA Board

What is Stormwater Management?

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.

What Makes Our Ponds Different?

We consult, design, and/or maintain stormwater ponds and conveyances to replicate natural contours and structure of wetlands in the following ways.

  • Native plants grown on-site are arranged in communities according to available soil moisture
  • Undulating edges vs. linear edges
  • Uneven pond bottom vs. flat bottom

View Our Natural Area Design Guide

Stormwater Ponds as Wetland Habitats


Creates high-value wildlife habitat in the midst of urban and suburban development by replicating the ecological functions of natural wetlands.

Water Quality

Improves water quality and removes sediments and toxins by filtering runoff through plant material.

Human well-being

Provides people living in urban and suburban areas with opportunities for observing and interacting with nature, which has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on physical and mental health.


Studies have shown that children who are allowed access to nature have decreased incidence of ADD/ADHD and related learning disabilities.

Ecoliteracy and Conservation Ethics

Human beings, increasingly removed from nature, understand little about wildlife and natural processes (eco-literacy.) In the case of children, the absence of a direct relationship with nature raises the question of where the land stewards of the nature generation will be inspired. If children (and adults) don’t know that there are marshes full of birds and ponds full of fish, turtles and frogs they are not likely to become advocates for their preservation.


Turns the aesthetic and economic liability of storm water management into an enhancement in community development. Whole ecosystems = healthy communities.
Business – Progressive developers and businesses know that being “Green” in real and quantifiable ways has direct, positive impact in the marketplace.

“The environmentally responsible care of our natural areas is of great importance to our organization and it is a luxury to have the expertise of HPEC staff. We have heard nothing but praises about the look of the land and the wildlife observed. With continued best practices and the knowledge of the HPEC staff, our campus will look more beautiful each year.”

– Darren Boyle, Medical Center of the Rockies

Our Land Management Leadership Team

Jim Tolstrup

Jim Tolstrup

Executive Director, HPEC


Jim Tolstrup is the Executive Director of the High Plains Environmental Center, a unique model for preserving native bio-diversity in midst of development. Jim works to promote the conservation, restoration, and landscape use of native plants. His past work experience includes serving as Land Stewardship Director of Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, CO and running his own landscape design business in Kennebunkport, Maine where he installed gardens at George and Barbara Bush’s “Summer White House.”

Jim holds a Certificate in Gardening Arts from the Landscape Institute of Harvard University and the Arnold Arboretum, has written numerous articles on gardening and environmental stewardship, and is a past recipient of Denver Water’s Xeriscape Award, ALCC’s Excellence in Landscaping Merit Award, ASLA Land Stewardship Award & the Sustainable Living Association’s Sustainable Contribution Award.

Kristin Oles

Kristin Oles

Restoration Ecology Program Manager


Kristin Oles is the Restoration Ecology Program Manager at HPEC. Kristin is a Colorado native and grew up in Pueblo. She graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Rangeland Ecology with a concentration in Restoration Ecology and a B.S. in Fishery Biology in 2011. She earned her M.S degree in Horticulture and Agronomy with a focus on Rangeland Ecology from the University of California, Davis in 2016. Kristin is very excited to be back in Colorado helping HPEC bring people closer to their natural surroundings through coordinating land management contracts and creating management plans for natural areas.

For More Information on our Open Space Management Services:

Email: LAND@suburbitat.org

Jack Van Vleet

Jack Van Vleet

Lead Restoration Ecologist


Jack Van Vleet is the Lead Restoration Ecologist for our Open Space Management programs. He is a graduate of Colorado State University with a Bachelors of Science in Rangeland Ecology and minors in Ecological Restoration and Conservation Biology. As a lifelong Northern Colorado resident, Jack has a passion for the ecology and management of the Front Range’s unique habitats and plant communities. When he’s not identifying grasses and wildflowers he is lounging at a brewery with his dogs.