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Kane Street Garden dedicates wheelchair accessible garden

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LA CROSSE, Wis. - (WXOW) - The Unitarian Universalist fellowship of La Crosse teamed up with Viterbo Students and The Hunger Task Force to build an ADA accessible garden and after a lot of planning, it is finally open to the public.

The wheelchair accessible garden, constructed of concrete blocks, is located near the garden's parking lot. The Unitarian Universalists have been planning this new planter project for about a year.

"It was a big initiative for us," said Jill Rippe, a local artist. "We actually raised the funds for this planter. We had hoped to put it in in the spring and we have been delayed because we just wanted to get the plan correct and the placement. We did put it in this fall and it actually went in quite rapidly because we had help from Viterbo students and our fellowship."

Unitarian Universalism is a global faith. They follow a liberal faith tradition with a set of values that they ascribe to and help each other live into those values.

"One of those values is caring for the Earth. The other is dismantling systems of oppression. So, those two values are kind of coming together today with this raised garden bed," said Reverend Leslie Mills, the Minister at the Unitarian Universalists of La Crosse.

Rippe explained that they built the garden in one day but the mural decorated on the outside of the garden took about a week. Rippe put together the design herself but had input from many people. When it came to actually doing the painting, they had a lot of hands helping out because of the amount of detail there is.

"It's one of the things people see as they walk in and it lets them smile. I wanted people to get kind of the contagious happiness that is here as people are outdoors doing something they love sharing. It was a message about community and about growing and about love," said Rippe.

The local garden produces about 30,000 pounds of fresh food to the community Rippe explained. However, for people in wheelchairs or walking disabilities, roaming through the garden was not an option for them.

"There had been two tires filled with dirt and they really were not meeting ADA guidelines. This is actually meeting those guidelines of accessibility," said Rippe.

Not only can people get produce from the Kane Street Garden, but community members can also volunteer to help maintain the it. With this newly built accessible garden, it gives people with disabilities the opportunity to volunteer as well.

"There are people who have differently abled bodies who can't necessarily walk up a hill or crouch on the ground. And so, we created this raised garden bed to make gardening more accessible to more members of the community," said Reverend Mills.

The community members hope to keep expanding the garden and give people a place to enjoy.

"Keep your eyes on this garden because I think it is going to keep growing," said Rippe.

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Rylie Kyhn

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