As we count down to the ribbon cutting for the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone in April, Plant Adventures Coordinator Jennifer Sanders offers the second installment in an occasional series.
More than once lately, I’ve been caught walking around the Library at Birmingham Botanical Gardens without my boots on. It’s earned me a raised eyebrow from one or two of the circulation desk volunteers. “Aren’t you missing something?” asked one ever-vigilant, ever-diligent soul. And senior librarian Elizabeth Drewery once had a compliment for me. “What lovely socks,” she said (compliments sound even better with an English accent).
The boots in question were parked outside, a few feet from where my office is tucked just inside the library’s back door. I’ve learned to wear the boots every day — after the first time I retrieved something from my supply closet in the construction zone (a.k.a the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone) and came back up to my ankles in red mud. Occasionally, I’ve had to shed them at the door to avoid decorating the library carpet with muddy footprints.
It’s been worth it though. For I’ve had the privilege to watch how the workers have taken a mud pit and created an incredible garden. While they’ve been laying drainage pipes and pouring cement and gingerly transporting trees and shrubs, we’ve undertaken a parallel challenge — building a program consistent with the vision embodied in the new garden.
The concept of universal design governs the construction process in the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone. It’s the notion that you can create a space that works for everybody. The most oft-cited example is curb cuts in sidewalks. The same curb cut that works for a person using a wheelchair or a rolling walker also works for the parent pushing a stroller, the airport-bound executive pulling a wheeled suitcase, or the child riding a bicycle.
The Arrington Plant Adventure Zone will be the first (but not the last) space at The Gardens built according to the principles of universal design. With Plant Adventures, we aim to put those principles in practice in our programs as well. We want everyone to find a place to participate.