ADA Approved Pathways at the UW Farm: Promoting the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Sustainability

Executive Summary:

The UW Farm comprises three green spaces located on the University of Washington Seattle Campus. All three sites offer growing spaces for: food and community-building, academic coursework and field trips, service learning, volunteering and also activities for the general public. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the UW Farm continued operations as an essential food production operation supplying households, the UW Food Pantry, and area food banks.


Total space maintained by the UW Farm is 6 acres with 1.75 cultivated for crops, Many visitors enjoy walking through the farm from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, 7 days a week. There are no gate fees, perimeter fences or NET ID required to enter the farm spaces. 


However, farm trails and pathways do not currently provide access for those with disabilities. Removing barriers for accessing green spaces would help address a sustainability issue on campus - Social Sustainability. As stated on the College of the Environment Climate Justice and Sustainability website page; 


“Environmental justice serves as a lens through which social justice principles can be incorporated into the realm of fair sustainability.”  


The issue of access, environmental justice and sustainability are intertwined. In fact, the city of Seattle reports that 6.4 % of the population has a disability or 46,971 individuals, but on our campus the number increases. According to UW DOIT, 19% of post-secondary students have disabilities. How does our campus address disabilities through the lens of Environmental Justice? By removing barriers to enjoy, recharge and experience the outdoors. 


The UW Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture is accessible by walking, bicycling, bus and by car. But once you arrive, the single ADA pathway stops before you can enter, preventing food access for those in wheelchairs. If there were ADA pathways then people in wheelchairs could learn about urban farming and related issues, recreate, and help plant, harvest and consume the produce grown on campus 


Only the farm site at the Center for Urban Horticulture offers the potential for ADA approved pathways, due to gentle slope, proximity to restrooms, handicapped parking and amenities. This site also provides the largest number of CSF-funded projects for learning about sustainability and is adjacent to the Union Bay Natural Area, Miller library, and event areas and classrooms - all wheelchair accessible.


The UW Farm and students would like to help provide more access to the farm space, but lack funds to do so. The UW Farm budget is cobbled together with grants, sales of produce, and requests for donations from donors and departments. The farm does not receive any Student Activities Fee funding, or Academic Based Budget funding. We would like to ask CSF for the necessary support to install ADA approved pathways from one end of the farm to the other, running east -west and connecting key areas, the Native garden, World Cultural Kitchen, Heritage Orchard and Wapato Pond. These pathways would also connect visitors with disabilities to other CSF-funded projects - Compost Toilet, Vermiculture Facility, SuperShed, Children’s Garden, and Greenhouse.  


Student Involvement:

As noted in the Executive Summary, this project will directly involve and affect UW Students, primarily First Nations students and their tribal elders, and those with disabilities. Access to green spaces on campus, and historic lands of the Coast Salish tribes will be provided at the Native Garden, Wapato Pond and the World Cultural Kitchen. Wheelchair accessibility of a pathway system will combine with proximity to already existing ADA approved restrooms, classrooms, event space, a library, and free parking. 


Students who visit the farm for courses, engage in CELE service-learning (over 150/year) and RSO volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in the construction of the pathways and enjoy the completed green spaces. These pathways will also improve the green space for the general public, who visit the farm daily.  


During the few weeks that we will work on the pathways, students and volunteers will be on the farm helping with harvests, plantings, weddings and in class. We can ask for assistance on any day when we have regular volunteer shifts, ( nine 3-hour shifts, five days a week).


The UW Farm also has 10-week internships including a Winter quarter Environmental Justice intern. Every year this individual focuses their attention on researching ways the UW Farm can act to make the space and programs more equitable and sustainable. During and after completion of the new pathways, this intern will recruit volunteers for maintenance of the trail and work on outreach.



  • Overall Project supervision - David Zuckerman and Perry Acworth, budget, equipment, labor and volunteer management 
  • Cultural Kitchen Path and Main Farm Pathway - Perry Acworth, UW Farm Manager
  • Heritage Orchard - Althea Ericksen, UW POE undergraduate senior, capstone 
  • Wapato Pond project - Kove Janeski, UW MLA, masters student, 2nd year, studio project 
  • UW Farm AmeriCorps Volunteer - Chrina Munn, UW Alumnus, volunteer tracking, recruitment and records
  • ASUW Student Disability Commission - Toby Gallant


Education & Outreach:

Our project will be publicized and educate the UW community in the following ways:

  • The UW Farm, lies within its administrative unit, UW Botanic Gardens, SEFS, College of the Environment. UWBG has a new full time outreach position who is also the lead for the DEI. Andrew Asaki is one of the collaborators for this CSF application. If we received CSF funds, the UW Farm Manager will work with Outreach to publicize the ADA access.
  • The farm also works with multiple faculty, CELE, and units across campus who visit for courses, labs and field trips. During those times
  • The UW Farm maintains a website page and the Farm Manager, working with the Environmental Justice Intern, will create a dedicated website page for Environmental Justice and Access to the UW Farm, the Center for Urban Horticulture, and adjacent Union Bay Natural Area.  The website will feature a map showing the ADA pathways, parking spaces, and amenities.
  • Word of Mouth - Thousands of students make their way to the farm each year, so news of the Trail would be sheared by word of mouth. 
  • The ASUW Student Disability Commission RSO will help promote and broadcast the trail to those within the disability community. 
  • The Daily - UW Farm manager would also contact The Daily and ask for an article profiling the trail. 
  • The UW Farm newsletter, The Weekly Dirt will feature an article and multiple social media posts will occur to promote the new trail access.
  • UW Sustainability hosts events for tabling and promoting groups and activities centered on sustainability. We will continue to participate and provide an ADA Trail map/brochure of the farm at these events.




Environmental Impact:
  • Environmental Justice
  • Community Development
  • Cultural Representation
  • Social Justice
Project Longevity:

The ADA pathway maintenance will be the focus of the Environmental Justice intern, which is a UW Student, supervised by the UW Farm Manager. Normally offered Winter quarter for the last three years, the internship will be extended to Spring and Fall quarters. This internship is advertised on the UW Farm Internship website page.

Maintenance of borders, grassy adjacent areas are maintained by UW Grounds.

Using farm tools already in our possession, the removal of leaves, trash, debris, twigs, etc. will be performed by the Environmental Justice intern and UW Farm volunteers under the supervision of the UW Farm Manager, AmeriCorps Volunteer and Production Manager. 

The organic materials and trash can be disposed of in the near by compost pile, recycling and trash bins.


Environmental Problem:

Working with the ASUW Student Disability Commission and the Intellectual House Interim Director Casey Wynecoop, it was learned that access to the UW Farm would be appreciated by students with physical disabilities and tribal elders. The Intellectual House interim Director requested ADA approved walkways for the World Cultural Kitchen adjacent to the Native Garden so that tribal elders can teach food ways.

As it happens, new signage will be installed in Spring 2023 (See Oliver Norred CSF Interactive Dynamic Sign Design project) for those with vision and/or hearing impairments. The signage will be installed by the end of Spring quarter 2023 at the same site where the proposed trail would be installed.

What is needed now are ADA approved trails or pathways that can accommodate wheelchairs and those with ambulatory challenges. Pathways that are nearly level and made of ¼” minus gravel are considered ADA approved.

Currently the Main Farm pathway, Heritage Orchard, Wapato Pond and World Cultural Kitchen (adjacent to the Native Garden) offer learning, recreation, and celebration areas, but they are uneven, seasonally muddy, weedy, and strewn with bark chips and rocks.


What is needed now is an ADA approved trails that would provide access through the farm for those with physical mobility challenges. Because the farm trails or pathways do not currently provide access for those with physical disabilities, the site is not Environmentally Just. This is a prime example of an element of Sustainability, known as Environmental Justice (and Disability Justice!).

For the first time, this project will bring together the ASUW Student Disability Commission RSO, disability students, Native Garden volunteers, tribal elders, the UW Farm team, UWBG Arboretum crews, and hundreds of student volunteers in the construction of new pathways through the farm.


Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The impacts of this project will be measured in the following ways:

Participation from the disability population

  • The ASUW Student Disability Commission will visit the site for guidance and feedback. This is our first project working together to provide Environmental Justice for our community. We will seek input from visitors who have disabilities which will inform improvements for access and user-ship in the future. 
  • We will learn from this group how best to promote and invite those with disabilities to participate in farm events and/or just visit. 
  • We will invite First Nations students, staff, faculty and tribal elders to the site. We will seek feedback on user-ability, improvements and methods for promoting visits to the green space which includes the Native Garden

Participation form volunteers

  • To measure involvement of volunteers, the UW Farm AmeriCorps Volunteer tracks all hours, classes, events and academic usage of the farm. The AmeriCorps Volunteer will recruit and involve the community and measure involvement via our records.


Total amount requested from the CSF: $17,220
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Description of materials and labor. Pathway materials (includes commercial landscape fabric; gravel) $12/linear foot by 5’
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Wapato Pond Pathway$12/linear foot85'1020.00
Main Farm Pathway $12/linear foot250'3000.00
Cultural Kitchen Pathway$12/linear foot125'1500.00
Heritage Orchard Pathway$12/linear foot100'1200.00
UWBG Arboretum and UW Grounds crew labor only$33/hour5 individualx10daysx$33/hour9900.00
Equipment rental/electric compactor$120/day5 days600.00

Non-CSF Sources:

Total donated and In-kind contributions are $9393.50. See attachment for details
Student Volunteer Contribution75 volunteers2 hours each18.69/hour2,803.50
See Attachement
Project Completion Total: $26,614


Due to wet winters in the PNW, most of the activity will occur from May-September, with primary work in June-August
TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Phase 1 Path creation - Cultural Kitchen & Main PathJune-August 2023September 1, 2023
Phase 2 Path creation - Wapato Pond, Heritage OrchardJune-August 2024September 1, 2024