April 4, 2015
Over the extended Easter weekend, Wendy and I visited my folks in Oklahoma City. On Saturday, Wendy and I walked off lunch at Martin Park Nature Center, a quarter-mile section of land on the north edge of the city located immediately west of Mercy Hospital and 1.5 miles north of Lake Hefner. It is seven miles due north of my parents’ home in Windsor Hills. The warm sunny walk was welcome after the bleak cold winter, and trees are budding all over the big city.
Back in the 1800s, the area which became Martin Park was home to Creek Indians. In the 1889 land run, Joseph Darby claimed a homestead encompassing the area. In 1910 Howard Johnston bought the land for his Bluff Creek Dairy, later switching to cattle ranching. In 1962, Oklahoma City voters passed a bond issue to purchase the Johnston farm for about $177,000. The area was named after J.T. Martin, the city parks commissioner.
The park was left mostly undeveloped as a wooded bird sanctuary, except for a 10 acre tree farm, until 1978. It had a Red Stick Trail through it, and in 2004 a Meadow Trail was developed. A 2010 bond issue brought a new pavilion, playground, bridge work, and other improvements. In recent years, Jack McMahan has been pushing to develop part of the park into a wheelchair accessible area; hopefully his group will work cooperatively with Friends of Martin Park to reduce the impact on wildlife. The park was very active on our visit, and too much development will change its conservation characteristics.
Wendy and I pulled in to find the parking lot filled with vehicles. Lots of small children, with their parents in tow, were headed to the playground and out for a replica bird egg hunt as an alternative to a typical Easter Egg hunt. Wendy and I made sure to take the least-crowded path, heading southwest along the side of a large meadow, which I presume was the former tree farm.
Convenient trailside map signage steered us to the “Turtle Iron Bridge” leading south across Spring Creek. We noticed how it got its name, as down in the shallow waters of the creek below the bridge swam several large soft-shelled turtles and catfish. More turtles rested on a log rising out of the water.
After crossing the bridge, we were on Trail C and took it eastward. It wound above the south bank of the meandering creek and then provided access down the creek bed. This was the most scenic spot in the park, where the creek had cut into the red clay bank.
We circled back to complete Trail C, encountering a tall man who excitedly declaimed about deer trails, joined by a short man wearing a yarmulke, who explained that they had strayed from the main trail onto a maze of narrow deer trails. Wendy and I stuck to the main trail, passing by what at first appeared to be a bird house. Its long thin openings meant it was actually a butterfly house, although we witnessed a wasp investigating the openings.
We forded Spring Creek just above the short falls to take Trail B above Bluff Creek, which travels north across Martin Park, intersected from the west by Spring Creek. Later I found online that Bluff Creek Park, a mile south of Martin Park, has both asphalt trails and single-track trails for dirt bikes.
We completed the Trail B loop as it ran back along Spring Creek, and then we headed north for the car along the southwestern shore of the park’s large pond along the eastern part of Trail A, spotting a Canadian goose and more turtles. You really couldn’t miss the geese, since the children playing nearby sometimes provoked them to honk.
We walked a total of two miles along most of the trails in the park, although we took alternate trails to the eastern and southern portions of Trail A’s loop. Spring has finally sprung, and that meant we truly enjoyed our walk in the park.