The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve is closing to the public until May 2022.
The closure is effective Aug. 30. The preserve is currently open Saturdays and Sundays. Chief Naturalist and Oxley Nature Center and Redbud Valley Nature Preserve Director Eddie Reese said attendance has boomed in the past year, and that’s meant more problems.
"And so, we have some plants being poached — some rare plants — and we have off-trail hiking, which causes erosion, graffiti on the rocks and the trees and things like that," Reese said.
Plant poachers have nearly wiped out a rare barrel cactus in the preserve that grows yellow flowers.
Reese said there are usually around 3,000 annual visitors to the preserve, but that's grown to 18,000 in the last year.
There have also been problems with people bringing their dogs to the preserve. Dogs are not allowed because they chase wildlife.
Discussions about closing the preserve started last year, but Reese said he was hesitant to do it until now.
"It's not a recreational area. We have those around here. It's not a park. What it is, is an ecological preserve, and what that means is that we have to maintain the biological integrity of the site," Reese said.
Research universities will continue to have access to the preserve, and Reese hopes the general public will come back next year after conditions improve.
"Everybody gets sick once in a while — people, your pets. Same here. So, we're just going to take some bed time and rest up," Reese said.
The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve is in Catoosa but was given to the City of Tulsa by the Nature Conservancy and is managed as part of the Oxley Nature Center.