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OKC parks panel pushes changes for disabled people at Martin Park

A plan to make Martin Park Nature Center more accessible to disabled people — including resurfaced trails, a tree house and a sensory garden — will be finalized by city parks and recreation and then put before the city council for final approval.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: December 20, 2012

A nature park in northwest Oklahoma City may soon get a makeover that would allow easier access by disabled people.

The city's Parks Commission voted Wednesday to recommend the city council adopt a controversial plan that could bring a tree house, sensory garden and new surfacing for two trails at Martin Park Nature Center, 5000 W Memorial.

The unanimous vote came after 20 people debated the plan for more than an hour.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Oklahomans to celebrate the positive development of exposing nature to everyone,” Jack McMahan, executive director for Wilderness Matters.

The nonprofit group presented a revised plan for the center that convinced the commission to favor it but which did little to assuage the concerns of an opposition group, many of whom live in the neighborhoods adjacent to the park.

The fundamentals of the design proposal remain the same: a center that is more accessible to disabled users, including a hard surface overlay for some dirt trails and programming that would allow even blind or wheelchair users to enjoy it.

The revised plan calls for improvements to be made in stages over a three-year period, with construction happening only during the offseason of bird migration.

McMahan also presented an environmental assessment and the endorsement of a biologist that he said demonstrate the plan would not impact the center as a habitat.

He said Wilderness Matters has raised a third of the $1 million the project is anticipated to cost and will develop an endowment to support long-term maintenance of the center.

“We're going to demonstrate to the parks department … what our work will in fact look like before we proceed to the next phase,” McMahan told the commission.

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