Council gives go-ahead to Martin Nature Park improvements

A nonprofit organization, Wilderness Matters, will draw up plans for making the Oklahoma City park more accessible to disabled visitors.
by William Crum Published: February 19, 2013

Jack McMahan overcame the physical, emotional and financial trauma of the bicycling accident that paralyzed him.

His recovery behind him, McMahan went to Martin Nature Park in northwest Oklahoma City, determined to reconnect with the outdoor activities he loves and that sustain him.

What he found gave him pause.

Using a wheelchair, he couldn't explore the park he had enjoyed with his children when they were growing up.

The city council on Tuesday agreed to let McMahan's nonprofit organization develop plans for more than $1 million in privately funded improvements at the park.

Once detailed plans are in place, the council is to give final approval.

Construction could begin in the fall.

The project is intended to open some previously inaccessible parts of the 144-acre park to visitors, particularly children, who are blind, deaf or unable to walk.

A trail will be surfaced, a boardwalk will extend over the pond, and educational aids will help all visitors, including those who can't see or hear, gain a better sense of their surroundings.

‘Available to everyone'

It's a personal quest with a public benefit for McMahan, a New Englander who attended Middlebury College in Vermont and served in the Army in Europe before a career as an insurance executive.

“I had to find a way back into the woods,” McMahan, 65, said.

An avid skier, bicyclist, fly fisherman and hiker, he injured his spinal cord in a bicycle accident at Lake Hefner nine years ago. He fell and hit his forehead when he pulled his bike off a trail to answer his cellphone.

After he'd recovered sufficiently from his injury, he said he found himself missing the wilderness.

McMahan said his wife, Susie, came up with the name for Wilderness Matters, a play on words that captures the business and emotional side of preserving the outdoors for more than just the able-bodied.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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