By Logan Monteleone
Elm Staff Writer
For years, descending the steps into the campus garden has been a delight for many; for some, it has been a struggle; for others, an impossibility.
Despite the difficulties that individuals with quadriplegia face, freshman Olivia Calvert was not willing to let her condition prevent her from entering a space she has longed to enjoy since her arrival at the College.
“As an environmental science major, I didn’t have access to the garden, to the environment itself,” Calvert said. “So I spoke up, and I found out that the ramp was being pushed for years, but never got anywhere.”
“It really brings me joy to see that it is finally being built to provide more access to everybody,” Calvert said. “I want to make sure that the school continues to improve accessibility and ADA compliance, and the changes that I am pushing for as a student here.”
Upon the ramp’s completion, Calvert said that she felt like she was “that stepping stone.”
This sentiment was echoed by Campus Garden President senior Jo Perkins, who said that Calvert’s inability to access the space and her advocacy for the ramp accelerated the process of having the long-awaited structure built.
Junior Kimi Adolfsen said that despite her affection for the chickens, her love of painting—such as was done by students in renovating the shed—and her desire to spend time in the garden alongside Perkins, her suitemate, that she has only been able to enter the space a limited amount of times with assistance on the narrow, railing-less steps.
“Ever since last semester, when a garden ramp was mentioned…every couple of weeks I would ask the Garden President, Jo, if there was any progress,” Adolfsen said.
Adolfsen explained that there was a serious effort on behalf of the garden club last semester to implement a ramp. The curb was even leveled for accessibility purposes, and the area which formerly had wide steps—which Adolfsen could descend with somewhat less difficulty—were removed for a ramp that was never built.
“Because there is no ramp, and because they took out the wide steps to put the ramp where the wide steps were, I haven’t been able to go in the garden,” Adolfsen said. “I think I have been in the garden twice all semester, and I wish I could go more.”
Adolfsen learned during conversations with Perkins that the garden club was planning to create a ramp committee to finance and build the project themselves. However, due to unclear circumstances, the project was taken over by the Office of Academic Support and Buildings and Grounds, and consequently delayed for months.
“I couldn’t wait to get back in the garden again when we got back [for the spring semester], and then I realized that there is absolutely no place for me to safely get in,” Adolfsen said.
“I really want to go see the chickens,” Adolfsen said. “I was there when we got the new chicks, and I haven’t seen them since they have grown. I don’t know their names because I haven’t been able to get into the garden to see them, to correlate their names with who they are.”
Lifelong Learning Coordinator Shane Brill explained that the narrow cinderblock staircase which serves as the only formal access point to the garden was itself an improvement from the original entryway. The blocks were installed by the kindness of a Buildings and Grounds crew member who was concerned about the potential for injury on stairs that were formerly just an earthen slope shaped roughly into steps.
“The ramp represents an important step in the growth of the campus garden, as it improves access for not just undergraduate students but for community members who will now be able to use this space on a regular basis,” Brill said.
“I absolutely struggle doing the little steps on the side of the garden,” Adolfsen said. “They are too narrow, and it is too difficult to have anyone help, because they are trying to balance themselves while trying to help me.”
Perkins said that the garden should be a space where everyone can come and enjoy, and Perkins does not want a student or community member to harm themselves “just trying to get into the garden.”
“With those stairs, it’s not a question of if someone is going to fall,” Perkins continued, “it’s a question of when.”
John Larrimore of Buildings and Grounds and the Carpentry Shop, who constructed the new ramp, said that it brings him a similar joy to be able to improve life for WC students. He believes strongly in developing positive relationships between B&G staff and students around campus through friendly interactions.
“As much as the ramp is something to be celebrated, and it’s a really great step for the garden to be accessible, the work is not done,” Perkins said. “The ramp isn’t the end-all-be-all. I’m still trying to get a railing to go on one side of the stairs, but that still has not been done, even though we have requested it.”
“We need to keep fighting for more accessibility on campus, and I really feel very strongly—especially about the garden—that the garden is a space where everyone can come and enjoy. I do not want someone to harm themselves just trying to get into the garden.”
Photo Caption: Larrimore (left), who built the new ramp, and Brill (right).
Photo by Logan Monteleone