As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, more than 100 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony including Friends of the Garden, UGA administrators, garden employees, donors, and people who had worked on the garden. Most attendees brought their children or grandchildren, who excitedly ran in to do all the things there are to do in the new garden after the adults got through with their ceremony.
Designer Cameron Berglund of Koons Environmental Design took his three children through the 2.5-acre garden featuring fun and instructive things from the steel arch at the entrance to the stone map of Georgia and its major cities and rivers, slides and things to climb on, and a big button you can push to start a river. That button sends water flowing down a funnel on a wall showing the elevations of Georgia places and cities as the water flows down from high to low on the wall and the state along with some places in between such as Atlanta (1,050 feet above sea level) and Athens (636).
There’s also huge mushrooms, a replica of a famous cave, and a wall where actual fossils from millions of years ago are embedded.
“It was such a joy working on these things,” Berglund said.
The children’s garden will be open to the public Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the university expects a huge turnout.
Aside from parking areas within the garden, UGA plans to run shuttles on South Milledge Avenue from the nearby women’s soccer and softball fields and from a UGA equestrian facility.
Garden director Jenny Cruse-Sanders, UGA President Jere Morehead and Jim Richardson, representing the Richards family, briefly spoke before the children rushed from place to place.
“Imagine what Saturdays are going to be like,” Morehead said as he spoke.
Fundraising for the children’s garden began with a $1 million gift from Alice H. Richards’ family. Other contributors, including the entire Botanical Garden Staff and its entire advisory board, added an additional $4 million.
Jim Richards, one of Alice Richards’ seven children, spoke for the family, describing his mother’s passion for gardening.
As a member of the State Botanical Garden’s first board of advisors 50 years ago, his mother always had garden scissors near to hand, sometimes on her person, he recollected.
“She told me once of the importance of garden clubs as a fraternity for women,” he said.
His mother would love the new garden, a playground “which is really an outdoor classroom for children,” he said. “She would be amazed and delighted.”
The children’s garden will be open during the State Botanical Garden’s normal working hours, but garden educational specialists will also plan regular programs. Larger festivals are also planned, including this Saturday’s grand opening, which will include food trucks and special children’s activities along with musicians, aerialists and other performers.
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