Martin Park Nature Center vandalized, damaged over the weekend

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Organizers said about 400,000 visitors go to Martin Park Nature Center every year to enjoy the great outdoors.

But, there are only two full-time staff members, so they rely on the public to keep it clean.

"It's just a good day to dodge the wind and be outside, and it's been a real pleasant experience,” said Christian Portwood, a visitor to Martin Park Nature Center.

Heather Portwood and Christian have been going out there since they were young children. That's why they were concerned after they heard some areas had been vandalized over the weekend.

Staff members said there were broken fences, signs missing and park benches moved to dangerous areas near the water. There was also lots of litter left behind after a record number of 1,000 visitors went through Saturday.

"Pick up your trash, people,” Heather said.

"The impact was pretty significant when our staff came back the next morning and found a great deal of litter and a great deal of trash all over the park,” said Melinda McMillan-Miller, assistant director of Oklahoma City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Organizers said they found a longer-term impact on the park after seeing foot traffic off the marked trails.

"There was a lot of damage done to newly-planted trees and newly-planted understory brush, plants that, unfortunately, won't come back from that damage,” McMillan-Miller said.

McMillan-Miller said they'll have to wait until things bud before they can see the full impact.

"If it doesn't come back, then we know we have some serious investment to put back in the park," she said.

That's why the city is asking visitors to help take care of the peaceful park, using the leave no trace behind principles - a national program to educate the public on how to take care of nature.

The seven principles are as follows:

  1. Plan ahead, and prepare.
  2. Travel, and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

It costs $40,000 to operate Martin Park Nature Center, which is paid for with taxpayer dollars.

"We try to take very good care of our parks and be best stewards of the sales tax dollars we have to manage our budgets, and that's where we hope that everybody will also embrace our parks and help us take care of them too,” McMillan-Miller said.

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