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Accessibility project launched at Martin Park

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Mayor Mick Cornett and Jack McHanan or Wilderness Matters were on hand to celebrate the start of construction on the Courage Trail at Martin Park Nature Center. - BEN FELDER
  • Ben Felder
  • Mayor Mick Cornett and Jack McHanan or Wilderness Matters were on hand to celebrate the start of construction on the Courage Trail at Martin Park Nature Center.

Appreciating a wooded park can be challenging for guests with disabilities, or even impossible for those bound to a wheelchair. But improvements at Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City hope to set a trend of park design that offers a new level of accessibility to guests who may have trouble walking, seeing or hearing.

“We are able to return to life with the expectation and hope that we will be able to participate as meaningful citizens in all facets of life in Oklahoma City,” said Jack McMahan, speaking about his experience as a quadriplegic after a cycling accident in 2004.

McMahan, who helped launch Wilderness Matters, an organization seeking to make parks more accessible to everyone, was on hand for a ceremony Wednesday launching construction of the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital Courage Trail at Martin Park. When complete, the trail will be wheelchair-friendly and include interpretative signage.

Wilderness Matters is funding the project and approached the park’s commission two years ago about building the first accessible nature trail of its kind in the state.

“When I started this projected I started it selfishly,” McMahan said. “I wanted to get into the woods, I wanted to get off the road and onto a trail. But little did I know what a trail might look like through the eyes of somebody who couldn’t see. What nature would be like for someone who couldn’t hear it.”

McHanan said his organization met with people who suffer from a variety of disabilities to discover what features the park should include.

Mayor Mick Cornett, who was on hand to help launch the project, said he envisioned more of these types of park facilities built in the future.

“It’s going to be a tremendous step forward, there aren’t very many of these in the entire United States,” Cornett said. “I have a sense there is going to be a lot more along the way.”

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