The new Botanical Garden entranceway (left) and the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center & Conservatory (right)

A new entranceway to the University of Georgia’s State Botanical Garden of Georgia includes an outdoor elevator to allow visitors to more easily reach the grounds and facilities from the parking lots and is the first of a trio of garden construction projects to be completed.

The entrance, which was completed and opened in mid-October, improves accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers, as well as people who aren’t comfortable on stairs.

“I’ve been trying to convince my department to come here for a field trip and this makes it more likely,” said Christine Bishop, a special education teacher from Atlanta, who was in Athens to visit the garden. “A lot of my kids have wheelchairs and it’s difficult when we go on field trips sometimes, but this elevator here is a big game changer. All the wheelchair accessible walkways make a big difference too. The proximity to the parking lot is also just really nice and convenient for people with special needs, both young and old.”

The well-marked entrance also helps visitors know immediately where to go after they park, and they can glimpse the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center & Conservatory and the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden from an overlook before taking the elevator or stairs to the ground.

“It’s a completely new view of the botanical garden and really ties together the area where people come in and first become oriented,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden.

The entranceway, with a bridge and walkway, is one of three projects that have been underway at the garden since August 2019. A Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum and Discovery and Inspiration Garden, which make up the garden’s Center for Arts and Nature, are nearing completion.

The interior of the Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum is expected to be finished by the end the year, with a variety of porcelain pieces from around the world installed before the center’s dedication on Jan. 29, 2021.

The extensive collection, donated by longtime garden supporter Deen Day Sanders, will be exhibited in permanent and rotating displays.

“Displaying the pieces on a rotating basis will give us an opportunity to create unique experiences,” said John Graham, director of finance and administration for the garden. “This way we can bring in new audiences and highlight different aspects of Deen’s collection.”

The Discovery and Inspiration Garden will surround the museum, with native plants and pollinators on display at eye level for adults and children. A pond will support the life cycles of frogs, dragonflies and other animal life in the garden. A great lawn will provide space for classes and special events.

The projects are privately funded, with gifts from Sanders, the Callaway Foundation, Tom Wight, Jim Miller, Mike and Betty Devore, Chuck and Suzanne Murphy, the Garden Club of Georgia Inc. and donors from across Georgia. The walkway at the entrance is named for C. Burke Day Jr., Sanders deceased son.