Universally Accessible Treehouses


Forever Young Treehouses is a corporation that designs treehouses for communities, camps, and organizations with a special emphasis on accessibility for the disabled. Their treehouses are also environmentally-friendly, and incorporate existing trees into the design. Their goal is to have an accessible treehouse in every state. Forever Young's staff will scout the area, inspect the trees, make a custom design, and help to organize local financing and labor. Take a look at some of their projects.

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The Pine Tree Society for individuals with disabilities operates Pine Tree Camp in Rome, Maine. Their treehouse was a community project, with donations coming from all over the state. It was built by volunteers, beginning with children who were camping at the site in September of 2007.

Six-year-old Nicholas Alexander of Belgrade was among the group of campers. The first-time camper was proud and excited to be such a special part of the treehouse. But Nicholas's involvement exceeded pounding the first nail. From the beginning of the project, Nicholas and his father, Keith, helped raise money and helped spread the word to their community. All told, Nicholas raised more than $3,000 for the Pine Tree Camp's treehouse.

The treehouse is now complete, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held this spring. (image credit: Erin Rice, Pine Tree Society)

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Candlelight Ranch near Austin, Texas provide nature experiences for special needs children and their families. The Candlelight Treehouse was completed in 2004, and stands 19 feet above ground. 155 feet of ramp leads to the 500 square foot play area inside. The ranchers like their treehouse so much, they are planning to build two more! The Reese Foundation won naming rights in 2007 by raising $50,000 for Candlelight Ranch. The treehouse now sports a plaque that says Reese's Treehouse, in memory of Reese Alexandra Gray who was born prematurely and died in 2006.

More treehouses in more places, after the jump.

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Camp Victory in Millville, Pennsylvania was founded in 1987 to serve children with debilitating illnesses and disabilities. "Partner groups" use the site for various types of camps through the summer. The Camp Victory Treehouse designed by Forever Young opened in time for the 2007 season. It was funded and built by West Pharmaceutical Services. See a video here.

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Cradle Beach in Angola, New York offers summer camps for disabled and disadvantaged children and also rents its facilities to a variety of organizations. An Amish family built their treehouse in four months in 2005.

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More and more public parks are building accessible treehouses. The world's first universally accessible community treehouse was built in Oakledge Park in Burlington, Vermont in 2004. Burlington is the home base of Forever Young Treehouses. The project involved hundreds of volunteers and donors, including individuals, corporations, and organizations who came together to construct the 500 square foot treehouse, which is connected to nine living trees.

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Everybody's Treehouse was completed in 2007 at Mt. Airy Forest in Cincinnnati, Ohio. Bill Allen of Forever Young talked to the New York Times about it.

Its 160-foot ramp winds among 14 trees (red and white oaks, maples and ash) as it climbs 15 feet to a 2,000-square-foot house with two asymmetrical cedar-shingle roofs that give it a Hansel-and-Gretel look. The structure is made of tongue-and-groove pine boards with an ipê-wood deck and has eight windows; most start 32 inches from the floor, an ideal height for wheelchair occupants. "For a kid in a wheelchair," Mr. Allen said, "it gives a different perspective of what the world looks like, of what a tree looks like, of what a forest looks like."

A stronge collaboration between city officials, sponsors, civic organizations, and construction crews meant this treehouse could be built in record time -only 32 days! HBA Charitable Projects kept a photoblog on the construction of the Mt. Airy Treehouse. It is described as having "one of the most whimsical and complicated roofing systems ever seen". (image credit: Jennifer Johnson)

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The accessible treehouse at Nay Aug Park in Scranton, Pennsylvania is perched 150 feet above the wooded valley! The David Wenzel Tree house was built with funds from many corporate and individual donors. It was named for the former mayor of Scranton who lost both legs and his left hand in the Vietnam War. Wenzel worked to promote accessibility in Scranton as mayor, and nationwide as a member of the National Council of Disability. See a video of the treehouse here.

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In 2002, Forever Young built a private treehouse for James, a wheelchair-bound 6th grader who was referred by the Vermont chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Local businesses donated materials. The finished house sits 22 feet above the ground and can sleep two. Furnished with a wood stove, it can be used year-round.

Find out more about building an accessible treehouse in your community at Forever Young.