Wilderness Matters has entered into a joint venture with the City of Oklahoma City; whereby we are designing, constructing, funding, and donating selected improvements to Martin Park Nature Center. These improvements will provide greater accessibility and capitalize on the unique attributes of the Park.
The Park consists of approximately 144 acres of forests and meadows tightly bordered by urban and commercial neighborhoods. The property contains a 20-acre pond and is bisected by Bluff Creek, which creates a unique "riparian" environment. Despite gradual urban encroachment, one can still experience frequent sighting of deer, coyote, squirrels, raccoons, turtles, ducks, geese, owls, and approximately 300 other mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. The Park has an important role in educating school children throughout central Oklahoma, offering classes, engagement opportunities, exposure to the outdoors, and experiential learning activities in nature.
Unfortunately, many natural obstacles have limited people with disabilities from fully enjoying the Park. Often, the rich experiences, including education, exploration, viewing, and tranquility are largely inaccessible to those who have a mobility, hearing, vision, developmental, or cognitive disability. The trail surface, for example, consists of gravel– which is very challenging for wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, or cane users – and is obstructed by roots, severe slopes, and stair steps. Navigational signs and other informational sources currently do not include forms of interpretive communication, which could help unlock rich information about the Park to those with vision or hearing limitations. These challenges have been addressed in the first phase of the Wilderness Matters project.
The intent of our project is to preserve the ecological advantages of the area while expanding access to its natural experiences – including feelings, sights, and sounds – to people with disabilities. Once improved, this Park has the promise of becoming a unique regional landmark that will greatly complement the Oklahoma City MAPS initiative.
The Wilderness Matters project is comprised of four primary areas of emphasis: 1. trail improvements, 2. new interpretive exhibits, 3. improved signage, 4. elevated viewing pavilion overlooking the 20-acre pond, all of which are designed to improve accessibility.
Approximately 3/4 of a mile of trail improvements are completed along the ADA accessible INTERGIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Courage Trail.
A new elevated viewing pavilion, located near the Nature Center overlooking the 20-acre pond, will be comprised of a series of ramps and platforms that will open to wide vistas of the lake and forests. The pavilion, complete with informational panels, will connect to the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Courage Trail giving all park users the opportunity to commune with nature. The Courage Trail was completed using sustainable trail construction methods.
This includes re-routing short stretches of trail to bypass steep slopes, steps, roots, or other obstacles and adding natural landscape features, all of which serve to improve safety and navigation. Design and construction improvements have occurred to approximately 7 trailside information podiums and wildlife viewing stations. This includes the addition of tactile models and wheelchair accessible viewing stations. The addition of new trail signs, clearly marking the trail, provide descriptive navigation information for all users. Smartphone applications are being installed which will enhance independent navigation and educational experiences.
Estimated total project cost is $1.5 million
target dates for project timeline
Phase I: winter 2014-2016
1. trail improvements
2. new interpretive exhibits
3. improved signage
Phase II: winter 2017-2018
4. elevated viewing pavilion