EDMOND — EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was modified Dec. 31, 2012, to remove a reference to any public funding source. Wildnerness Matters Executive Director Jack McMahan said his organization will be seeking private funding for the proposed park renovation. The Edmond Sun regrets the error and any inconvenience to our readers.
Adding new trails and structures at Martin Park Nature Center could have serious consequences for the area’s wildlife, trees and rare plants, according to The Friends of Martin Nature Park, a civic group that supports the Martin Park Nature Center.
A proposal made by the Wilderness Matters Inc. group would mean a $1.2 million to $2 million project to improve access for the disabled at the park.
“Everyone supports increased accessibility,” Friends spokeswoman Janna Gau said. “Accessibility isn’t the issue. The issue is the unintended consequences of this particular proposal. A major problem is the building of a new trail into an area of the park that has been designated as a wildlife sanctuary since 1978.
“The proposal seeks to change that designation, which will create irreversible and detrimental effects to the park and its use as an educational facility. Their proposal impacts the entire park property.”
The Friends of Martin Park Nature Center recently asked the OKC City Council to postpone consideration of the new development and appoint a joint committee to resolve problems with the proposal.
Friends of Martin Park Nature Center are raising opposition stemming from a proposal by nonprofit group Wilderness Matters Inc., which wants to add new handicapped-accessible trails, a tree house, a boardwalk across the lake and a sensory garden.
Friends members say the projects would require a large amount of construction and could destroy trees and rare plants, disturb the nesting seasons of migratory birds and scare away wildlife that have long been part of the city park at 5000 W. Memorial.
“These proposed changes were going to cause problems and, in my opinion, had not been thoroughly vetted,” Gau said.
The Oklahoma City Parks Commission conducted an additional review of the plan during a Dec. 19 meeting and voted to send the proposal to the City Council for consideration during the Jan. meeting.
Volunteers say ‘Do Not Disturb’
“The new trail will alter the healthy natural ecosystem in the southeastern portion of the park,” said Cathy Christensen, president of the Oklahoma Bar Association and representative of the nearby Val Verde homeowners. “It is home to deer, owls, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, muskrat, beaver and a variety of nesting birds, and it is an important habitat for migrating ducks, geese and songbirds. Remove those animals and you lose the opportunity to educate thousands of children and park visitors.”
Christensen also said that disruption to the natural ecosystem could reduce the number of predators, such as owls, which keep populations of rodents, skunks and other animals from overpopulating and becoming pests to nearby neighborhoods and the park itself.
Construction at any level, Gau said, could destroy some of the park’s rarest plants and prevent migratory birds from nesting there. Construction could force wildlife, such as bobcats and wolves, to move into surrounding neighborhoods.
“We have four rare species of plants you can’t find anywhere else in Oklahoma, and then we have birds like the ruby-throated hummingbirds that migrate here in the spring,” Gau said. “That’s just one of 30 migratory birds we have. The issue is we have migratory birds coming in all year, so it makes it difficult to make changes to the park. This type of construction could prevent them from coming here if the area is altered.”