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Mar 01, 2021

Winter brings a whole new world to HPEC at The Lakes

When Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, bringing six more weeks of winter, it came as a disappointment to many. After all, winter means snow, ice, cold and shorter days. Luckily, it does not mean that residents at The Lakes at Centerra have to hole up until spring – in fact, quite the opposite! This can be a great time of year to explore nature. The great outdoors is open 365 days a year and right now is an especially unique time to take in the landscape.

The High Plains Environmental Center (HPEC) located right here at The Lakes offers an amazing winter landscape for residents and the community to enjoy. We talked to HPEC’s new Community Outreach and Programs Manager Pam Sunderland for some tips on activities that may even be better this time of year.


What to Do in the Winter?

Aside from the frigid polar vortex that the country and Colorado have been gripped by in recent weeks, Colorado’s winters are normally quite pleasant and come with ample sunshine and blue skies. By bundling up it’s not too hard to get outside and enjoy an entirely different view than you would normally see in the summer.

Here is a list of 10 winter activities to consider right now, in no particular order, that you can enjoy in your own backyard here at The Lakes:

  1. Take a walk
  2. Go birding
  3. Build a snowman
  4. Meditate
  5. Write in a journal
  6. Photograph the snowy scene
  7. Explore the winter plants and grasses
  8. Look for winter wildlife
  9. Enjoy the silence
  10. Volunteer at HPEC

Like winter itself, this list of activities and ideas is much calmer and more sedated than many of the things you may consider in the summer. As the days are shorter, the pace of life slows down in the winter. Layers of coats and boots force you to walk slower, inhale the cool air and just enjoy the surroundings as opposed to running through them. Although, you can still do that in the winter if you like.

“Winter is great, especially if you go out at different times of day – the shadows are different, the sunlight is different, the air is clear, and the sky is so blue. You can get some solitude,” Pam said. “If you dress for the cold, especially on those sunny days, it is pleasant and beautiful around The Lakes.”

Perhaps one of the best elements of getting out to enjoy life at The Lakes in the winter is the fact that you might just have this piece of paradise to yourself. Often, the crowds around The Lakes that are frequent in the summer months disappear and are replaced with calm and quiet solitude.

You can listen to the snow crunch underfoot, sketch the frozen landscape in a notebook, or perhaps, with a camera in hand, capture winter wildlife activity. The local landscape during this season opens up a whole new world of photography that never existed before during the summer months. The green warmth and buzzing insects give way to bunnies bouncing through the snow and your frozen breath floating through the air. “The winter provides a great way of going outside and looking at things from a new perspective in the winter,” Pam said.

The very landscape itself takes on a whole new form in the winter. Still there, but entirely different, the grasses, trees, flowers and bushes all change under the blanket of the cold season. HPEC’s Native Plant Spotlight can provide a guide to what you’re seeing during a nature walk.


A Certified Wild Winter

The Lakes residents often have a deep connection to the community and the natural area they reside and recreate in. Fortunately, HPEC is committed to preserving Colorado’s unique natural beauty within our growing urban areas and cultivating a conservation ethic so the region remains healthy for future generations to enjoy. As a 3,000-acre master-planned community, a jewel in the crown of Loveland, Centerra collaborated with the HPEC in registering with The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) marking the proud distinction of becoming the first Certified Wildlife Habitat in the entire state of Colorado.

In order to remain a good neighbor to the nature that surrounds us, make sure to implore the same environmental practices you would in the summer. Take only photos and leave only footprints. Don’t disturb the environment that is still home to animals and plants, remaining on the trails with pets on leashes. While they may not be as visible or active in the winter, they are still there waiting under the snow to return come this spring.


Get to Know HPEC’s New Programs Manager

As Pam is new to HPEC in her role as community outreach and programs manager, we would like to take a moment to welcome and introduce her to the community.

Pam moved to The Lakes at Centerra from Georgia in September of 2019 specifically because of the community, open space, trails and HPEC. She is married with two daughters and enjoys time on the trails, kayaking and gardening. As a retired conservation land-use consultant and program director, she was especially drawn to the ideals of HPEC and became a volunteer in the gardens and greenhouse. After a year in this capacity, the position seemed to be a natural fit for her.

After starting in a temporary capacity, Pam has transitioned to the full-time position and is gearing up for when things normalize and HPEC can open up. She is looking at new, creative and easy-to-offer programs to continue safely in light of the pandemic with health and safety guidelines in place.


Upcoming Events

Pam notes that a large part of her and the HPEC’s mission is to educate and inform the community about the natural beauty that The Lakes residents enjoy year-round. While COVID-19 has made that more challenging, it is possible to get outside and there are still events in the works.

When walking around the lake or neighborhood, Pam wants people to know the names of flowers or birds that they see and answer any questions they have, which is why the HPEC offers residents educational classes on everything from birding to gardening.

Here’s a look at some 2021 programs that are coming up, stay tuned for more details as they become available.

  • Garden & Chapungu Tours – More information will be coming soon on these tours.
  • Native Plant Sale – This event will be held digitally again this year to ensure safety and physical distancing with COVID-19.
  • Monthly Bird Banding – Join us on the first Saturday of each month for a Bird Banding program with Scott Rashid, director of the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute. All ages are welcome and registration is required. Learn more.
  • Community Garden – Sign up for plots starts in March and they are free and available to members of HPEC and The Lakes at Centerra residents. Learn more.

For more information on HPEC programs or events call 970-622-9676 or email info@suburbitat.org.

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