New accessible path to the Middle Oconee River at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens

In late February, 2021, Mike and I visited the new accessible path to an overlook viewing the Middle Oconee River.

Paved pathways through the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s many display gardens are accessible, even the hillside Shade Garden, built before the ADA Act. A new pedestrian entrance with an elevator provides access from the main parking area, plus an overlook to the Visitor Center, new Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum, and the lower entry plaza that unites both. A visitor can borrow a scooter or wheelchair while the visitor center is open to discover the buildings and gardens.

But this new path brings accessibility into natural areas and the river that forms one boundary of the 313-acre botanical garden. The path led us from a small parking lot into an open area flanked by tall trees, through grassy lowlands with some standing water (there had been rain earlier that week, but the raised walk was dry), and to an overlook with a view of the Middle Oconee River.

Mike’s scooter comes apart and fits into our trunk – so useful for garden visits and discovering new places. He had spent time in town on the scooter before coming, so it only had enough battery life left to get to the overlook and back from the small parking lot below the Shade Garden, quite a distance.  I heartily suggest discovering this feature from the small parking lot at one end of this new trail. I would then move the car to accessible parking near the main pedestrian entrance to enjoy the display gardens and buildings.

Both Mike and I have worked at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; I recently retired after 16 years there. So as we walked this path we understood how much work had been done over the years to reclaim some of this area from invasive privet and create this lowland habitat. There is still a lot of privet in the area, as can be seen from the network of over five miles of unpaved nature trails that connect to the overlook and small parking lot, but the botanical garden is doing an admirable job reducing privet and other invasives from natural areas. Invasive plants are a very formidable adversary.

One of the most charming features of the small overlook is the number of people who come off the trails here or pass by during their trail runs. Whether you only catch their eye or chat a bit, there is a moment of warmth and friendliness.

 

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