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University of Georgia breaks ground on Alice H. Richards Children’s …

Last Friday, sunny skies and light breeze welcomed University of Georgia and State Botanical Garden of Georgia officials as they broke ground on the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden.

It was a project nine years in the making, and as of Sept. 1, the two-and-a-half acre green space in the botanical gardens is officially growing.

“We’re very excited. This will be a new opportunity to engage children,” UGA Director of Office of Service Learning Dr. Shannon O’Brien Wilder said.

Director of the State Botanical Garden Jennifer Cruse-Sanders began the ceremony by greeting attendees and distributing thanks to all contributors towards the garden, which is set to officially open in early 2019.

“The Children’s Garden will be an engaging, safe, hands-on space that will allow children to discover and explore nature,” she said.

Cruse-Sanders said this garden intends to incorporate three guiding principles in its programming: nature as a teacher, connecting with nature through arts, science and literacy education and a healthy lifestyle.

These lessons are rooted in the garden’s design, which consists of a canopy walk in the trees, treehouses, creature habitats, hands-on activities and an underground zone. The plan has been architected by Athens-based Koons Environmental Design and Allstate Construction.

“I am confident that their collaboration will result in a children’s garden that will not only become an important part of our community, but will be one we will be excited to showcase to the entire state,” Cruse-Sanders said.

Geoffrey P. Cole, chair of the botanical garden board of advisors, followed Cruse-Sanders and discussed the immense anticipation and donations from the garden’s staff.

“We’ve been eagerly anticipating this day,” Cole said.

Laura Meadows, the interim vice president of UGA’s Public Service and Outreach thanked the support from the university and the garden staff.

UGA President Jere W. Morehead celebrated these efforts as well and emphasized the educational opportunities yet to come.

“Certainly the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is going to be a wonderful and inspiring destination for everyone in the University community and in the city of Athens,” Morehead said.

Morehead extended additional gratitude to the Richards family, whose $1 million contribution in 2007 initiated the dream of the garden.

Jim Richards and his son Chase Richards honored the garden after Jim Richard’s mother, Alice, a cherished mother and grandmother and avid gardener.

Alice H, Richards was also a charter member of the State Botanical Garden Board of Advisors. She specifically desired for the grant to do something significant for the garden and children alike, Jim Richards said.

“We’re excited to see it actually begin to bloom,” Jim Richards said.

The Richards family, from Carrollton, hope to have every member come and visit once the garden completes in honor of their grandmother.

“She would be so proud,” Chase Richards said.

UGA and the garden’s board of advisors have raised $4.3 million out of the $5 million project so far, and hope to have $10,000 by Sept. 8.

“This is going to be a great space,” Director of Communications for UGA Public Service and Outreach Kelly Simmons said.

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