This Friday, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden will initiate its first-ever admission fee to help pay for repairs such as fixing the park's front gate fountain. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux
July 16, 2019
Starting this weekend, one of Fort Worth’s oldest and most beautiful parks is taking a giant leap that the city hopes will ensure it will thrive for generations to come.
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s first ever admission fee goes into effect Friday.
The city initiated the fee in the hope of reversing an annual budget shortfall of $1.2 million. The revenue will serve to address deferred maintenance and bring back programs that have bypassed the venue in recent years because of the gardens’ deteriorating facilities.
Some publicly opposed the fee on the grounds that it would shut out the economically challenged. To ensure access to all, a broad menu of reduced-fee and no-fee options will be available to students, military and families on public assistance.
Fee advocates point out that most of the nation’s 15 (Fort Worth is 13th) largest cities charge admission to their botanical gardens and conservatories. The few with free entry typically benefit from large endowments, said Botanic Garden director Bob Byers.
“We have no endowment. Others do,” Byers said. “The gardens are falling apart. [Without admission fees] we don’t have the operational funding to sustain our operations.”
The fees will enable work to begin on long-overdue maintenance and repairs. Those include the upgrading of greenhouse services, renovation of The Gardens restaurant and restoration of its adjacent fragrance garden, and increasing color plantings. A new, open-air electric tram service that will transport patrons throughout the gardens also is planned.
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
On June 25, Fort Worth City Council adopted the Botanic Garden’s new fees and a variety of admission options, including:
$12 regular admission for adults 16 and older. $10 for seniors 65 and older. $6 for children 6-15. No charge for children 5 and under. $1 for adult SNAP/WIC recipients and free admission for their kids under 15.
Yearly memberships: $50 Individual. $80 Family. $100 Supporter (includes invitations to opening night for exhibits). $30 for Lone Star Card (SNAP/WIC) recipient families.
Additionally, 60 free family passes (MusePass) will be available for Fort Worth Public Library card-holders at library branches throughout the city, 4,500 admission passes will be distributed via nonprofit agencies, and children under 18 who reside in Fort Worth may enter for free every school day from 3-6 p.m. Under the Blue Star program, admission for active military will be free between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Finally, local students on sponsored field trips will receive a free return ticket.
Membership benefits include Garden and Botanical Research Institute of Texas admission, reciprocal arrangements with more than 300 public gardens across the United States including the Dallas Arboretum, and discounts for classes and family programs. The fee also includes access to the park's popular Japanese Garden, which has required admission for decades.
The Botanic Garden and the adjoining BRIT entered into a licensing agreement on March 19 that enables resource sharing and provides for educational, volunteer and membership services to cover both facilities.
RETURN OF THE CONSERVATORY
In recent years, the dramatic and glassy Rain Forest Conservatory has become the poster child for the Botanic Garden’s financial predicament. Numerous broken panes and the danger of falling glass forced the giant greenhouse’s closure in 2016. The plug was pulled on Conservatory-based programs and events, as well as popular traveling exhibits like Butterflies in the Garden. Thanks to a combination of private donations, city funding and community-group support, repairs to the structure already have begun. Included in the restoration will be the replanting of flora that was lost as the building deteriorated. Butterflies in the Garden will return in late February 2020, and an orchid show is already in the works for March 2021.
Other planned activities and events include a performance of “Frida and Diego,” a Fort Worth Opera Festival production celebrating the lives of famed Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, with a special garden patterned after the one at the couple’s Mexico City home.