Renovations to Martin Nature Park and Will Rogers Garden near completion in time for sunny days

Two OKC parks, including Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center, are getting improvements. (City of Oklahoma City / provided)

Two OKC parks, including Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center, are getting improvements. (City of Oklahoma City / provided)

Spring in Oklahoma is in full bloom, and with it comes a rebirth of sorts at two different facilities managed by the Oklahoma City Parks & Recreation department.

Renovations to Martin Park Nature Center’s visitor education building began in January and at Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center in September. Both are now nearly complete and open to the public as the city adds finishing touches.

Renovations to Martin Park’s visitor education center, which contains a library, an event room, a naturalist office, restrooms and multiple displays, were funded with $431,250 as part of the 2007 General Obligation bond. Another bond project allocated $219,000 to parking lot expansion and improvements, including adding 30 more parking spaces and doubling lighting.

Oklahoma City Parks & Recreation natural resources manager Scott Copelin characterized the work as part of “growing pains” for the building, which was built in 1974. Martin Park, 5000 W. Memorial Road, offers 2.5 miles of woodland trails, a nature-themed playground, live animals and a nature learning library, guided hikes, spring and summer youth camps and more.

With the changes come easier access to exhibits to better accommodate Martin Park visitors and staff. An entire wall and tank-filled exhibit in the nature center were moved for easier access and to make room for a new mural that depicts the variety of “eco-zones” found across Oklahoma and displays featuring native flora and fauna, including a tree trunk-like installation with prop bats and owls inside.

Renovations to the Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center began in September. (City of Oklahoma City / provided)

Renovations to the Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center began in September. (City of Oklahoma City / provided)

Improvements include a new, more easily accessible door entrance that’s covered by an awning, which Copelin said allows guests to get out of the weather. Other upgrades to the aging center include a new roof, countertop, sink, drainpipe and the addition of an east-side library window allowing new views of the pond.

“I think once everybody sees the improvements, they’re going to like it a whole lot better,” Copelin said.

This weekend, Martin Park Nature Center hosts Earth Fest as part of the City of Oklahoma City’s monthlong, Earth-friendly event roster. Eco-friendly arts, crafts, games and nature- and conservation-themed family activities run 1-5 p.m. Saturday. Oklahoma Forestry Services staff also provide hands-on forest-related activities for guests. Due to construction at Martin Park, the event will be at Stars & Stripes Park at Lake Hefner, 3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive. Admission is free. Visit forestry.ok.gov/earth-fest or call 405-297-1429 for more information.

Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center improvements include upgrading the existing bathrooms, adding a new universal bathroom, new flooring, LED lighting throughout most of the building and a new ceiling in the exhibition hall.

Renovations also added new sinks, countertops, windows, paint and more.

“We’re raising the standard, we’re raising the bar, and I think the public will really like what’s going on,” Copelin said.

Will Rogers Gardens, 3400 NW 36th St., is one of the city’s oldest parks and features historic gardens, an arboretum, expo center and conservatory and hosts programs, classes and summer youth camps.

Visit okc.gov/recreation/will-rogers-gardens or call 405-297-1392.

Print headline: In bloom, The spring season signals a rebirth with updates and renovations at two city parks.

Ian Jayne

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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