Fort Worth

BRIT to take over Fort Worth Botanic Garden education, volunteer programs

Front entrance to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Front entrance to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden rmallison@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth is inching closer to turning over its educational and volunteer programs at the city’s Botanic Garden to the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, a nonprofit research facility located next to the gardens.

The move comes as part of a sweeping reorganization of the city-owned gardens that started in March and was recommended in a consultant’s report on the garden’s future. Several steps have already been reached, but some are still in the works, including the deal with BRIT.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to give staff the go-ahead with formalizing an agreement with the nonprofit, an international leader in plant-based knowledge. BRIT was founded in 1987 to house the Southern Methodist University herbarium. It has grown since and now houses several more collections as well as offering other programming.

In 2005, BRIT leased land from the city adjacent to the Botanic Garden. It moved into a new building on the site in 2011.

Bob Byers, the Botanic Garden director, said placing the education work the city and BRIT do under one roof works best.

The programs for children and adults the two groups provide will complement each other, he said. One of the garden’s key programs is Little Sprouts — nature lessons for toddlers — while BRIT has a strong kindergarten to second-grade program, he said. They hope to expand programs to teens and work even closer with school districts.

“It will be a great thing,” Byers said. “We want the Botanic Garden to be a more active partner with the schools.”

In the fiscal 2018 budget, the city will transfer about $191,000 in the Botanic Garden special revenue fund to BRIT to support the partnership. However, three city employees assigned to the Botanic Garden’s education program will lose their jobs. The city said it will work to find other positions for those employees, or encourage BRIT to hire them, according to a report.

In October, the city hopes to launch a nonprofit group or a partnership dedicated to fundraising and growing membership in the Botanic Garden.

The 110-acre Botanic Garden, next to the Will Rogers Memorial Center, opened more than 80 years ago and is the oldest botanic garden in Texas. A consultant’s study said the garden needs about $15 million in infrastructure work. The Conservatory has been closed to the public for 15 months because of needed repairs.

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