After more than a decade of planning and nearly two years after breaking ground, the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia in Athens opened last month. The two-and-a half-acre site is designed to be the ideal spot for children to play and foster a love of nature in a fun yet educational space.

Named in memory of Alice H. Richards, a charter member of the State Botanical Garden’s Board of Advisors, Richards wanted a place for children to experience the beauty of nature first hand. Ground broke on the project in 2017 and is expected to host more than 50,000 children annually. A beautiful decorative steel archway, designed by Atlanta artist Andrew Crawford, greets visitors to the garden.

“We have tried to incorporate something for everyone,” John Graham, director of finance and administration at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia. “The garden is designed to complement our educational programs. We want children to explore over, under and through the garden.”

The interactive garden provides children of all ages a hands-on outdoor classroom setting for students to learn all about the various aspects of nature.

The Dig and Grow Gallery, complete with raised beds, allows students to see how food is grown and harvested, learn the nutritional value of foods and the role that fruits and vegetables play in our overall health. Children are able to walk through the inside of a fallen, giant chestnut tree. The portal is an exploration of the bones of the tree, once plentiful in this area before being devastated by an infection that almost wiped out the species.

The Georgia Discovery Plaza features a large granite map of the state of Georgia and allows students to watch the flow of water from the northern part of the state to the coast. The granite for the wall was locally sourced from nearby Elbert County.

Other features of the garden include a canopy walk, an exhibit that allows for the exploration of the underground root system, a climb up spider web, sand pits, misting mushrooms and much more.

“This garden is truly magnificent,” Graham said. “It is a fabulous resource not only for Georgia children, but children across the Southeast.”

This article is from the May 2019 issue of Augusta Magazine.