For 80 years, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden has offered a natural haven to city dwellers for free. But facing mounting costs, including millions in repairs, the garden may soon need to add an entrance fee.
Leaders say they need up to $14 million for much-needed repairs and upkeep, from a cracking glass ceiling in the now-closed conservatory, to rusted air conditioner units.
The Fort Worth City Council heard an update Tuesday afternoon on plans to consolidate management to better track spending and to work more closely with nonprofits on private fundraising.
Something has to change to secure the Botanic Garden's future.
Garden director Bob Byers envisions more than a garden. He says charging an entrance fee, similar to the Dallas Arboretum, could be the key to introducing new educational programming there, even research.
"Most of the gardens are doing major work in conservation," Byers said. "I don't have the resources to do that."
But before adding fees, Byers and other leaders are looking for any other options to generate more revenue.
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"We're being very considerate. We're not rushing this," said Byers.
Consultants are also surveying to find out who visits the gardens and why.
"Once or twice every two weeks," said visitor Monica Zavala. "Gives us time to explore and let him learn new things."
Botanic Garden leaders say if they do add an entrance fee, that would be at least two years away. They're doing a lot of research in the meantime to streamline spending and repairs and to look for other options.