News from the NW ADA Center – Idaho
Accessible Community Gardens
Winter weather got you down? Are you dreaming of spring? Waiting for the tulips to poke their heads out of the ground. With the beginning of March brings thoughts of the old saying, “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. This has always seemed a straightforward enough proverb: when March starts, it’s still winter, and by the end of the month spring has begun. True, in our Idaho climate the weather hasn’t quite reached the lamb stage by the end of the month—it’s more like a surly cat, maybe, or one of those awful territorial honking geese. But you get the idea.
We would like to share a wonderful story about an individual who turned the dream of an accessible garden into reality for individuals who thought gardening was no longer an activity that they could enjoy. In the spring of 2016, Christa Nuxoll, Service Coordinator at Boise City Ada County Housing Authority observed a resident at Shoreline Plaza gazing at their j community garden. The garden space is located at the apartment complex where Christa works and where this lady lives, a low income high rise residential building for residents 62 and older and individuals with disabilities. This resident expressed her disappointment that the pathways and access to the garden were too difficult for her to access because of her physical limitations.
This resident inspired Christa to think about the many residents who missed gardening because of the barriers in the current garden space. She started brainstorming on ways to create a garden that is accessible and available to all the residents who would enjoy the activity and benefits of gardening. Christa realized that an accessible garden space would mean spending time outside visiting and gardening with neighbors, producing healthy and delicious home-grown produce and colorful flowers. This would provide healthy benefits of community and social interactions, and physical exercise.
Christa started by consulting with Dana Gover at the Northwest ADA Center-Idaho on ideas and designs on building raised garden boxes and accessible pathways in the large garden space. Although the ADA does not specifically cover garden spaces, Dana helped Christa understand how to apply the ADA Standards for Accessible Design to create a garden that is accessible and useable for all residents including individuals who use wheelchairs, have difficulty bending over, kneeling or other limitations.
Christa organized planning meetings with the residents of the building to get their ideas and visions for a garden that they could use to grow fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs. She designed a plan from the information she received and contacted community partners for donations in services and materials. Approximately 15 community businesses and individuals came forward to make this dream a reality. Tuffy Excavation donated materials and labor, as well as Idaho Materials and Construction, McAlvain Construction, Home Depot and Rock Solid Civil. Cinder blocks, soil, tools and starter plants were donated and the “Universal Garden” became a reality!
The number of gardeners multiplied through the season and the residents were thrilled by the accessibility and freshness of the new raised beds and smooth walkways. The fall harvest was bountiful and over the winter residents are busy planning their community garden for the new growing season.
Thank you to Deanna L. Watson, Executive Director Boise City Ada County Housing Authority and Christa Nuxoll Service Coordinator at Boise City Ada County Housing Authority for sharing this story about their accessible garden. If you are interested in accessible gardening contact the NW ADA Center-Idaho or your local CIL. We can also put you in touch with Christa on how she turned a dream for a Universal Garden into a community activity that created healthy fresh produce, gorgeous flowers, new friendships and lots of joy and laughter. The following are pictures of the garden project portraying the old garden, excavation stage, pouring the accessible pathways, building the raised garden boxes, to harvest.
Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website: nwadacenter.org/idaho
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 711