Fort Worth

Panel eyes admission fees that could add $3.7 million in revenue to botanic gardens

The Fort Worth Botanic Gardens could raise nearly $3.7 million in new revenue if the city started charging an admission fee, a task force studying the garden's future was told Monday.

The proposed fee of $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $8 for children would cover access to the entire grounds. Currently, separate fees are charged for the Japanese Garden and the Conservatory, which has been closed for several months because of structural issues.

The Conservatory is just one on a long list of $15 million in repairs needed just to bring the gardens up to par, a consultant's report concludes. Other costly improvements and renovations are needed beyond that.

The task force also learned Monday that an additional $172,750 could be raised by offering memberships and from private and corporate giving.

About 334,400 people visited the gardens in 2017, two-thirds of whom don't live in Fort Worth. The city subsidizes a little more than $3 million of the garden's $5.2 million budget. That funding would continue and be used toward operations and capital improvements.

The garden was established in 1934 and the Japanese Garden in 1973. The gardens have undergone a reorganization of their financial support groups in the last year and are now a special revenue fund of the city.

The task force is also considering discount days and single-use free passes, or designating a section of the park to be free, to make sure the gardens remain accessible.

The task force will host a public meeting before it makes a recommendation to the City Council, which is expected to happen before the July summer break.

Richard Zavala, the city's parks director, said the task force is trying to get to the most effective recommendation it can.

"This is a very diverse and very engaged group and they are asking a lot of good questions," Zavala said. "Their recommendation is what is going to make the Fort Worth Botanic Garden reach its full potential and enable us to sustain it for future generations."

Implementing an admission fee would raise the garden's budget to around $7.5 million in 2019 and $8.7 million by 2023.

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727; @SandraBakerFWST