The Fort Worth Botanic Garden — once open to anyone for no cost — will cost residents next month.
Beginning July 19, the fee will be $12 for adults and $6 for children between 6 and 15. Those over 65 will need $10. The city council approved the fees in November as a solution to a budget hole of at least $1.2 million and as much as $17 million worth of needed improvements. The Botanic Garden remains owed by the city of Fort Worth and will be run by Botanical Research Institute of Texas.
Critics have said the fees will limit the city’s low-income residents from enjoying the gardens, but a task force recommended the move.
Councilman Dennis Shingleton said Tuesday the decision to institute fees was not arrived at lightly. The city provided a $10 million bond to address immediate needs and the hope is the fees plus grants and donations will help pull the garden out its rut.
“If the garden is going to be all it can be we need an infusion, an injection,” Shingleton said.
Free or reduced options include:
▪ Free after-hours events, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at least quarterly with the goal of growing to once a month.
▪ 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.
▪ The city has provided some limited options to help those on budget visit the gardens.
▪ Reducing the family membership from $100 to $80.
▪ Adding adults with special needs living at home to the family membership.
▪ Sponsored field trips with students on free or reduced lunch given a return ticket.
▪ The MusePass will allow families to check out passes from the Fort Worth Public Library in a similar way to e-books.
▪ Under the Blue Star program, military members and their families can visit for free between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
▪ About 4,500 family passes will be distributed to nonprofits that work with low income residents to distribute to families.
The options were approved by council on a 8-1 vote. Councilman Cary Moon, who voted against the fees in November, was again the lone no vote while saying he thought the city “is getting this so wrong.”
“I don’t know a single Fort Worth asset or park that has so many people connected to it,” he said, adding that he hoped to see it remain free.
The fees replace the $7 charged for the Japanese Garden and $2 for the nature conservancy.
Nancy Stevens with the League of Women Voters said the options approved Tuesday had come a long way to make the garden accessible to residents, but she worried that those living paycheck to paycheck would be hurt.
“We’ve still got a substantial portion of Fort Worth population that is probably going to be shut out,” she said.
Admission is one part of a multifaceted funding plan meant to find between $15 million and $17 million for deferred maintenance at the garden as well as to fill the budget gap. With these options, the gardens should generate a profit for the first time in 2002 — less than $10,000. That amount goes up to about $296,000 by 2024.
The revenue will expand programming and staff designed to make the botanic gardens more attractive to visitors as well as improvements to the garden.
The 30-year-old Rain Forest Conservatory remains closed as the glass roof is structurally unsound. A moon visit, an old favorite of visitors to the Japanese Garden, is also closed in lieu of repairs. Across the park, water features, infrastructure, utilities and amenities all need repairs, director Bob Byers said last fall.
“We can’t look the other way like we have for the last 20 years,” he said. “If we do that, we won’t have the garden.”