Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Athens News Matters: State Botanical Garden of Georgia Improves Accessibility with New Trail

Every year, thousands of people come to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, drawn by the 33 acres of cultivated space and some 280 acres of natural areas. But, for those with strollers, wheelchairs, scooters, canes, and walkers, not all of those natural areas are accessible, but Garden staff are working on changing that.

“It was late afternoon, and the sun was just setting, and the reflection in the water was just perfect," said Mike Sikes, describing the view from the Middle Oconee River from his recent trip to the garden with Connie Cottingham.

Sikes has worked at the garden for several years, and Cottingham just retired after 16 years of service. Obviously, these two are no strangers to the garden, but this visit was a little more special thanks to the new, ADA accessible trail, which allows Mike to venture into the natural areas of the garden with his scooter.

“It is wonderful the way it's set up," said Sikes. "It was amazing.”

According to Sikes, more people may benefit from the trial than you might think

"Older visitors to the garden can access this and use it. My 80-something-year-old mother could walk this path," he said. "So, it opens up to a lot of people."

One of those groups includes birders.

“The state Botanical Gardens was actually designated the first Important Bird area in Georgia, and it's really diverse for birds," said UGA Assistant Professor Richard Hall. "One of the best areas in the botanical garden for seeing birds is actually the strip between the power line cut and the Oconee River."

Hall said that the new path allows mobility-challenged birders to fully experience the diverse range of birds that come to this rich area.

“In the past, it could be a challenge for some of our mobility impaired bird watchers in the Athens area to get down into those habitats. Now, this great ADA accessible trail that goes from the lower parking area to the river provides access to these really incredible habitats for birdwatchers," Hall said.

In addition to the new ADA accessible trail and parking spots, the garden has new boardwalks that make it easier to walk the trails, according to State Botanical Garden Director Jennifer Cruse-Sanders

“We have a beaver pond, and the thought was to create a boardwalk over that area in the natural areas and increase access to the flooded area and give people better views of the natural areas," she said.

The improvements so far are really just the beginning, said Cruse-Sanders.

“We received a generous donation to do a natural areas master plan that will allow us to study how we can continue bringing accessible trails into the natural area. So, I think we'll begin to work on additional trails in the near future.”



"Birding is for everyone!"

Click HERE to learn about Birdability, an organization dedicated to removing barriers to access for birders with mobility challenges, blindness or low vision, intellectual or developmental disabilities (including autism), mental illness, being Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and other health concerns.

Related Content