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Students help design first ADA accessible garden in the area

Closeup of an ADA approved garden in Pullman.
A celebration of the new garden was held last month, and the plots will be available for use next spring.

School of Design and Construction students helped to design and build one of the first fully accessible garden plots in the Inland Northwest. The plot that meets ADA requirements is located at the Pullman Community Garden at Koppel Farm in Pullman. 

 “This is only the second accessible garden of its kind in the region (the other one is in Coeur d’ Alene),” said Michael Sánchez, assistant professor in WSU’s School of Design and Construction. “Providing gardening to individuals who are mobility challenged is a great need, and this project makes that possible. It is extremely beneficial for the students to be able to consider designing spaces for people of all abilities and to become aware of that challenge when they approach a design problem.”

The project to design the plot started in 2020 with the aim of providing those with disabilities with the same opportunities to enjoy the health benefits of gardening, according to Becky Phillips, a member of the Koppel Community Gardens board of directors. The project brought together several community partners to complete the work.

Students in Sánchez’s third-year landscape architecture classes began working on the project in 2020. The students worked with the garden’s board of directors to design the site, including wheelchair accessible paving, fencing to keep deer out, and raised planter beds to accommodate gardeners in wheelchairs. The students took the conceptual designs and then produced construction drawings. They also developed a construction budget and began doing construction on the site itself in spring of 2021. 

In addition to design and budgeting skills, the students got a real-world introduction to the landscaping industry. 

 “They learned how hard the labor can be in all different types of weather to make a small project like this a reality,” Sánchez said. “It gives them a greater appreciation for the craftsmanship and skill needed by those in the building trades.”

The students worked in cooperation with the city of Pullman, the Pullman Community Garden, and Disability Action Center NW (DACNW). The project received funding from the Innovia Foundation, Christopher & Diana Reeve Foundation, United Way of Whitman County, and the Meter Group. 

“Something like this takes cooperation from all across a community,” said Mark Leeper, Executive Director at Disability Action Center NW (DAC NW) in a press release. “As far as we know, this is the only truly accessible public garden plot in the Inland Northwest. It was designed from the outset for accessibility and to provide an opportunity for success in gardening.”

A celebration of the new garden was held last month, and the plots will be available for use next spring. 

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