New trails and a visitor center are being built at the Keystone Ancient Forest, one of the oldest, preserved tracts of forest land in Oklahoma.
A crane towers over the forest, lifting steel for the frame of a new 2,000 square foot visitors center. It's the first real construction at the site, where trees that are hundreds of years old are just steps away.
About 5,000 people hiked some of the ten miles of trails in the preserve last year.
"Imagine when we finally have modern bathrooms and a nice place for people to cool off or warm up and go to the bathroom” said Grant Gerondale, with the City of Sand Springs.
Gerondale is part of a team working to improve the 1,200-acre preserve.
The few roads have no markings, and some trails need more mileage posts, so today he's walking off an old fire road, measuring the distance, and marking every tenth of mile.
“We've been out in the forest working for the last couple of weeks” said Gerondale, “putting up mile markers and things that have frankly been put on the back burner, and we've been trying to take advantage of the time that people haven't been out here hiking to get some work done.”
The forest hasn't changed much without people. After all, it's been almost undisturbed for centuries. Few of the trees look old, but the oldest sprouted around 400 years ago. The post oaks and cedars don't typically grow tall and wide, but those twisted branches give clues to their age.
At the preserve, they're expanding the parking lot and improving the easiest trails, while leaving the others and the forest as natural as possible. When these quiet spaces reopen to the public June 6th a few improvements will be done, while work on the visitor continues into the fall.