By Pamela Dickman
As soon as crews began creating a 1-acre wetland in east Loveland, the frogs hopped in to a new home.
With native grasses and plants, the butterflies and birds followed.
That is what Jim Tolstrup, executive director of High Plains Environmental Center, hoped and planned would happen.
The nonprofit environmental center, smack in the middle of Loveland’s fastest-growing mixed development, is in the midst of building a wetlands ecology garden just behind Range View offices in Centerra.
With the help of volunteers, Tolstrup is returning an acre of land to its native state as an example to developers and residents.
Across the acre is an array from wetlands to berms that Tolstrup describes as “high and dry.”
Also across the acre is a matching slate of native plants, providing habitat and showing what naturally grows in what soil and moisture conditions.
“It teaches people the value of and how to use native plants, and the relationship between wildlife and sustaining our native butterflies,” said Tolstrup.
“Having the native plants is essential to that.”
Many of the native plants were salvaged from a nearby field developer McWHINNEY is transforming into an apartment complex on the west side of Rocky Mountain Avenue across from Medical Center of the Rockies.
College students turned out last October to help High Plains staff dig up and save those native plants.
Other native plants sprouted in greenhouses at the environmental center.
When finished, the garden with its plants and viewing boardwalk will cost about $22,000.
A $3,000 grant covered a portion of the project, but the rest is community donations. An anonymous donor pledged $3 for every $1 donated by the community.
The center needs another $1,400 in donations to complete the project.
By next spring, everything should be finished and native wildflowers blooming.
But although it is only 80 percent complete, the ecology garden is open to everyone to view its native beauty.