Fort Worth

Will free options at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden make it easier to visit?

Visiting the Fort Worth Botanic Garden — in deteriorating condition, but the last free city-owned venue — will cost money starting in July. A handful of reduced and free options may make it easier for visitors on a budget.

Facing as much as $17 million in immediate needs and a budget hole of about $1.2 million annually at the garden, the Fort Worth City Council in November passed an admission structure. The suggested fees would be $12 for adults and $6 for children between 6 and 15. Those over 65 would pay $10.

But the council also directed city staff to explore more ways to make the garden accessible to children and lower income residents.

Those options, presented to council members Tuesday, include several free options for Fort Worth residents, but come at a revenue loss of nearly $109,000.

The new proposal includes:

Reducing the family membership from $100 to $80.

Free after-hours events, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at least quarterly with the goal of growing to once a month.

Allowing free access to Fort Worth residents for the first hour and last hour of garden operations on the second and fourth Mondays.

Half-price Saturday morning admission once a month.

Allowing Fort Worth children under 18 in for free from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on school days.

Adding adults with special needs living at home to the family membership.

Susan Alanis, an assistant city manger, said new structure may be complicated and the city can adjust it as needed, but it appeared to be the best balance between providing access to the botanic garden and addressing funding needs.

“The goal was to try to make sure we didn’t miss anybody,” she said.

The council is expected to vote on the new proposal June 25. Fees are expected to start July 19.

These recommendations are on top of free and reduced options approved in November that were put forward by a task force commissioned to study how the make the the garden profitable.

Those options include:

About 4,500 family passes will be distributed to nonprofits that work with low income residents to distribute to families.

The MusePass will allow families to check out passes from the Fort Worth Public Library in a similar way to e-books.

The Under the Blue Star program, military members and their families can visit for free between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Botanic Garden will offer sponsored field trips to all third-grade classes in the Fort Worth school district. Each student will receive a pass to bring their family back on another day. Currently, those on field trips can show up unannounced, potentially creating a problem for garden staff.

Those on the SNAP or WIC assistance programs can visit for $1 per adult. Children will be allowed in at no cost. A family pass will also be available for $30.

Under the recommendations from a task force, the garden should begin generating money for the first time in 2022, about $130,000, and bring in $426,000 by 2024.

That income falls dramatically under the new staff suggestions. The garden would make less than $10,000 in 2022 and less than $300,000 in 2024.

During public comments Tuesday, Travis Christal said he wasn’t convinced the gardens required fees to operate and called the idea “policy racism” because it would disproportionately impact low income and minority residents.

“The fact that it has operated without a fee since 1934 speaks for itself,” he said.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or
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