NORMAN — Spring wildflowers are blooming at Sutton Urban Wilderness Park, located north of Robinson Street on 12th Avenue Northeast. The park has more than 200 acres of natural habitat including wetlands, prairie and woodlands.
Blue-eyed grass is blooming now, its delicate purple petals with sunny yellow centers dotting the prairie and woodland landscapes. A native Oklahoma wildflower, blue-eyed grass is the tiny, wild cousin of the iris, a popular cultivated Oklahoma plant also in high bloom right now.
Artists, families hiking or fishing, runners, dog walkers and bird watchers are a few of the people who enjoy trekking the winding trails at Sutton Wilderness on a daily basis.
Sutton Lake helps support a wide diversity of wildlife.
“The Sutton Wilderness is a wildlife refuge,” said Judith Wilkins, who serves on the park’s advisory committee. “George Sutton was a professor at OU, and he would visit Sutton Wilderness and would create a lot of his renowned artwork there and study the wildlife there, as well.”
A dry creekbed that runs from Sutton Wilderness to the Little River is used by waterfowls and other nesting birds and small mammals as a corridor, Wilkins said.
“There are a lot of different environments, and since there’s a variety of habitats, we have a variety of wildlife,” said Roberta Pailes, who serves on the park’s advisory board. “We have good records on this because Dr. Sutton kept records on every bird he ever saw out there.”
Pailes said BioBlitz inventoried the wildlife at the wilderness park in 2001. Pailes is a former educator at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History.
“When people go out there, if you run through it, you may not see all the wildlife,” Pailes said. “If we had one wish, it would be that people would slow down and see the wildlife.”