The nonprofit High Plains Environmental Center is a living laboratory on sustainable living in an urban setting. The 76-acre site offers three miles of trails for strolling, workshops and interactive environmental research. Subjects for study include composting, vermiculture, growing native plants, sustainable horticulture and vegetable gardening, wildlife and wetlands.
Two man-made lakes, dug in 1907 as reservoirs, cover another 200 acres and provide a precious wetlands for migratory birds.
HPEC is reclaimed from disturbed agricultural land and a dump, with a commitment to the native plants that draw in and sustain the insects and animals native to the region. Because native plants can be difficult to obtain, HPEC produces its own seedlings from seeds collected on the site.
The environmental center is the heart of a planned community that will eventually house 15,000 people and employ another 30,000. The goal is to accommodate that degree of development without degrading the reclaimed natural area.
Developer Tom Hoyt, president of McStain, created the concept of the community and the developers of the planned community, Chad and Troy McWhinney, are applying the concept.
In addition to the natural areas, HPEC is home to a vegetable garden and greenhouse that provides thousands of pounds of fresh produce to local food banks.