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Oxley Encourages Families to Get Outside

One of Tulsa’s best-kept secrets is tucked into a pocket of leafy quietness north of the city. The Mary K. Oxley Nature Center located inside Mohawk Park is 804 acres of protected plants and wildlife open nearly year-round for low or minimal cost excursions.

According to the Center’s director, Eddie Reese, in the 1970s, a couple of conservationists asked the Audubon Society to help them explore what it might take to start a nature conservancy. With some fundraising and some help from the City of Tulsa, the group purchased the acreage. With a generous donation from John and Mary K. Oxley, the group was able to construct the building that stands today, housing an interactive center of interest to nearly any age.

Reese said that private donations in the 1990s allowed for some modern upgrades to the building, which were completed in the early 2000s. The center itself is now home to over “a half million dollars in exhibits,” Reese said. That’s just inside the visitor’s center, which is open during regular business hours.

But the park offers much more. School groups, couples, families, bird and plant enthusiasts get to Oxley by the Mohawk Park entrance, and wind past the Tulsa Zoo about a mile, through a set of gates and down a gravel path. The interactive building is surrounded by a pond and picnic areas, which are available on a first come basis.

The Center offers a program for nearly every interest. Reese explained that there are regular botany, butterfly and earth science walks. They guide a Full-Moon walk and Family Adventures. Visitors are not restricted to guided tours, though. Reese said that groups of families with little ones strapped onto backs and retirees are regular fixtures on the trails. “Trails at Oxley are on the flood plan and are table top flat,” he said. Strollers and wheelchairs can navigate many of them. The trails are each less than a mile long, but loop around each other, and are marked with signs.

Hikers will see “cottonwoods, sycamores, oaks, pecans, and hackberry trees,” according to the Center’s website. There are also 200 kinds of birds and 50 butterfly types. Visitors may also see deer, raccoon, bobcat, mink, skunk, coyote, flying squirrel and beaver or their markings.

Oxley Nature Center also maintains the Redbud Nature Preserve, located at North 161st East Avenue, 3.8 miles north of Highway 44. The trails here are steeper and slicker, and snakes are more common. Limestone bluffs and rare plants, including the columbine, not common in this area, make this a favorite spot, Reese said, for bird and plant buffs.

Horses, firearms, fireworks, hunting, fishing and target practice are prohibited at these centers. The Oxley Nature Center offers a few classes, such as wooden bucket making, for a minimal fee. Reese said scouts often use the center to help earn badges. He stressed that the park is for everyone, from toddlers on up. To learn more about Oxley Nature Center and its programs, visit their website www.oxleynaturecenter.org

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