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Groups look for compromise in plans to change Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City

BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: December 3, 2012
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/articleid/3734177/1/pictures/1898772">Photo - Emily Nolin, 10, walks across a creek at Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City in October. Plans to make the park more accessible to people with disabilities have proved controversial.  Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman Archives
Emily Nolin, 10, walks across a creek at Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City in October. Plans to make the park more accessible to people with disabilities have proved controversial. Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman Archives

All in all, the improvements would impact “less than 10 percent” of the 144-acre park, city Parks and Recreation Director Wendel Whisenhunt said.

Impact on wildlife

Friends of Martin Park is not yet convinced there has been enough study to ensure the plans won't have a detrimental impact on rare vegetation and wildlife in the park, Gau said. The group also is concerned about getting guarantees from Wilderness Matters and the city that the modifications won't be too expensive or difficult to maintain over time.

Jack McMahan, Wilderness Matters' executive director, points out city projects like the children's playground haven't hurt the park's atmosphere or purpose, and he doesn't expect the accessibility modifications to either.

“We don't want to run the nature out of the park. That's why we all want to go there,” he added.

The Parks Commission's vote in November to approve McMahan's plans resulted in a 3-3 tie. It hasn't been put on Tuesday's Oklahoma City Council agenda, and there's no deadline to get it on there.

That leaves both sides time to engage in more talks. McMahan said he's confident he can show skeptics that his plans will only improve the park and not hurt it, and that he's willing to work with the Friends of Martin Park to allay fears. Gau said Friends members will be receptive to a plan they think addresses their concerns.

Approval by the Parks Commission isn't necessary before the plans go to the city council, but it wouldn't hurt the item's chances. McMahan said he thinks he'll give it another try after more discussion with the Friends.

“We'll continue to have meetings with them until we can reach that kind of understanding,” McMahan said.


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