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March 2015 Parks and Recreation ezine

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Empowering Oasis

2013-03-01, Department, by Danielle Taylor

Davenport, Iowa's new enabling garden welcomes all users to get their hands dirty, regardless of physical ability.Although parks are intended for everyone, sometimes it can be a bit complicated to ensure that equal amenities are provided for people of all abilities. In Davenport, Iowa, however, park planners recently unveiled an enabling garden that levels the playing field for all users.

The idea for the garden stemmed from suggestions sent in by participants in the city’s Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) programs, which prompted park department staff to look into possibilities for a garden that could accommodate disabled and able-bodied users alike. In nearby Illinois, the Chicago Botanic Garden features the Buehler Enabling Garden, which served as an inspiration for the Davenport garden. The Chicago garden’s accessible amenities include raised, shallow beds that allow for wheelchairs underneath; hanging baskets and vertical wall gardens that are easy to reach from a low height; a level, firm surface that eliminates the maneuverability problems associated with dirt or bricks; and many other features that were adapted for use in Davenport.

Gene Rothert, program director for Buehler and past president for the American Horticultural Therapy Association, served as an advisor for the Davenport garden, which was designed by architectural and engineering consulting firm Shive-Hattery. Seve Ghose, Davenport’s director of parks and recreation, worked tirelessly with the city council and ultimately secured funding for the $500,000 project. Ground broke for the new 1,300-square-foot garden in May 2012, and it opened to the public last October.

“The garden is ideal for the able and disabled, along with the offering of hands-on opportunities to patients recovering from life-altering trauma to engage in productive therapy,” says Kenneth Asta, CPRP, experience manager for the City of Davenport Parks and Recreation. “It’s fully accessible—all parts of it—including the permanent planting beds, seasonal beds, large pergola, fountain, closet containing storage for tools, sink, doors, and gate. It is also paved with permeable pavers instead of concrete, adding a green element to the garden.

“It has been well received by the community, as it is available as a wedding site, therapy site, learning site, and site for respite and relaxation,” Asta continues. “The special needs community is especially excited about the opportunity that the enabling garden presents in its first summer of operation.”

Davenport’s enabling garden is located in the city’s historic Vander Veer Botanical Park, which opened in 1885.

Danielle Taylor is Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation (

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