Gwinnett EHC file photo

The Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. Gwinnett County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve construction of a $4.1 million sensory playhouse at the center.

Gwinnett County is planning to install a new tree house play area at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center that is designed specifically for people with disabilities.

County commissioners approved the $4.1 sensory treehouse, which is designed to let people with disabilities experience being in a tree canopy, at its meeting on Tuesday. The treehouse will be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, county officials said.

“The sensory treehouse will provide people the opportunity to connect with the ecosystem and challenge their senses,” said Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson. “It will help children without disabilities perceive the world as experienced by children with disabilities and the other way around by immersing them in nature.”

The tree will resemble an American chestnut tree in a nod to Georgia’s tree heritage. There will be a variety of textures, including smooth, rough, hard and soft, as well as light and dark and cool and warm surfaces on the treehouse.

Visitors will access the treehouse via a boardwalk that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act as well as learning station nodes that are designed to let the visitors experience nature through touch, smell and sight. There will be video, audio and scents inside the treehouse to give visitors a chance to learn what it’s like to be in a piedmont forest and what it’s like to climb up into a tree canopy.

The treehouse will be located close to the ground, but it will be placed on a sloping landscape so visitors can feel like they are climbing high into a tree canopy.

Construction on the treehouse is expected to begin this fall and county officials expect it will take one year to complete.

Lichty Commercial Construction was awarded a contract by the county to build the treehouse.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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