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First Accessible Community Treehouse

By Burlington (VT) Mayor Peter Clavelle
February 14, 2005


The city of Burlington recently became home to the world's first accessible community treehouse. Created through a partnership between the city and Forever Young Treehouses, a Burlington-based nonprofit organization, our treehouse offers all citizens and visitors, whether they run marathons or use wheelchairs, a special place and an extraordinary view from the treetops.

Since 2000, Forever Young Treehouses has been building these magnificent structures at schools and camps for children with disabilities. Burlington's treehouse represents the organization's first truly public project, one that clearly demonstrates that accessibility can be fun for everyone.

Desiring to create a community treehouse for people of all physical abilities, the founders of Forever Young Treehouses approached me in 2003 to propose a partnership. The city of Burlington contributed land in a public park and some initial capital. Forever Young staff coordinated a capital campaign, as well as the project's design, engineering, and construction. Our combined vision of an inclusive, accessible recreation facility sparked considerable community interest and prompted local firms and philanthropists to contribute labor, materials, and cash toward the project.

The result of this partnership is a safe, ADA-compliant, beautifully crafted structure. Our 500'square-foot treehouse, accessible via a 100-foot ramp and deck, nestles high among nine different trees. This certainly excites kids with disabilities. It also attracts "youth" of all ages, including many of our elder citizens. Meetings of senior citizen groups, birthday parties, weddings, board retreats, and yoga classes are all being planned for Burlington's house among the trees.

As mayor, I'm pleased that Burlington became the first city to build a universally accessible community treehouse. I'm also pleased to note that other cities are contacting Forever Young, which has set a goal of an accessible treehouse in every state by 2008. I wish this fine organization well and recommend them to fellow mayors looking for projects that will inspire their community and bring people together in a good cause.

More information on Forever Young Treehouses can be found at www.treehouses.org