Advocates on both sides of a divisive plan to make Martin Park Nature Center more accessible to people with disabilities are optimistic that open communication and a little more time will give them the opportunity to reach common ground.
Wilderness Matters, a local nonprofit, has been given permission by the Oklahoma City Council to develop plans to spend a $1 million donation on making parts of the park more accessible to people with disabilities. The plan requires council approval before it can be implemented, and it has met some resistance as proponents try to get approval from the Parks Commission.
Friends of Martin Park, a group of longtime park supporters, has been the leading voice expressing concerns the park could be permanently and negatively impacted by modifications without using the greatest of care, and Wilderness Matters hasn't yet won over skeptics in the group.
But there's hope that more communication will yield a plan that's broadly acceptable.
“I think we're going to find we can make this work for both sides, and more importantly that the city of Oklahoma City and its residents benefit from a park that has some really special attributes,” said Janna Gau, an Edmond attorney serving voluntarily as a spokeswoman for the Friends of Martin Park.
Wilderness Matters' plans involve making improvements to trails at the park, which sits just south of the Kilpatrick Turnpike at 5000 W Memorial Road. One of the park's three main dirt trails would receive a new surface that is more accessible to people with disabilities, but there are no plans for a hard surface like concrete or asphalt. A new trail with the improved surface also would be constructed alongside an existing dirt service road at the park.
The group also would build a universally accessible tree house and a sensory garden for use by people with disabilities related to vision and other issues. A boardwalk on part of the park's lake is also possible.