On May 25, the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden and supporters celebrated the grand opening of the first in a series of accessible paths connecting some of the garden’s feature collections; an undertaking that involved two key fundraising events over the last year and consultations with stakeholders with lived experience encountering barriers to access.
The inspiration for this initiative was the discovery that one of the garden’s committed, longstanding volunteers, who depends on a power chair to get around, was unable to access the garden’s most recent project, Mountainside Habitat, a native plant garden comprised of botanicals that grow in sub-alpine terrains.
“The concept to bring these plants that grow in higher elevations where many of us wouldn’t be able to get to easily—if at all—and to display them down here at the Garden for all to enjoy, really came from a desire to create access to plants,” the garden’s development officer, Heather Vince shared.
Vince goes on to explain the oversight was the absence of a clear and stable pathway that connected this new habitat to the garden’s main perimeter path which bypassed this new collection entirely and meant people who use mobility aids couldn’t access the project to see it for themselves. “We won’t always get it right, but we listen, we learn, and we strive to do better.”
The garden consulted with Marco and Karin Pasqua, the team behind Meaningful Access, a “universal design and accessibility consulting firm working with developers, designers and city planners to create spaces that include all members of the community.”
“Marco and Karin gave us valuable insight into improvements for our project and new perspectives. They explained that the seven principles of Universal Design serve everyone, not only people with mobility challenges; it goes well beyond the built environment—it’s about the entire experience. The learning we took from them that day will be carried into everything we do going forward,” said Vince.
Head up to the garden to see the new path for yourself: the route begins at the foot of the plaza, and passes through the Cook Rhododendron Walk, the Quaking Aspen Grove, and into the Mountainside Habitat. From there you can choose the Rainforest Grove, the Emily Lasuta Learning Centre, the Dragonfly Pond and Wetland, or the Welch Family Viewing Platform. And, it now connects with the Perimeter Path.
Visit coastbotanicalgarden.org for business hours and accessibility details.
For Accessibility Consulting, visit meaningfulaccess.com