The Fort Worth City Council this month will begin taking significant steps towards reorganizing the Fort Worth Botanic Garden under one umbrella group, a move that was called for by a consultant last fall.
In November, the City Council voted to accept a report from St. Louis-based EMD Consulting Group, which recommended creating a new nonprofit group to focus on membership and development, and transferring the operations now handled by the Fort Worth Botanical Society and the Fort Worth Garden Club to the city.
The consultant also recommended the city start charging an entrance fee, but Park Director Richard Zavala, who gave the council an update Tuesday, said that won’t happen anytime soon. The new nonprofit could be in place by March 2018, he said.
We’ve got an opportunity here to take it to the next level. It is, and should be, a world-class facility and perform like one.
Richard Zavala, Fort Worth’s Park and Recreation director
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“This is a major step in the beginning of setting the foundation for the future of the Botanic Garden,” Zavala said. We’ve got an opportunity here to take it to the next level. It is, and should be, a world-class facility and perform like one.”
On March 28, the City Council will vote to establish a Special Revenue Fund for the Botanic Garden. Money from the city’s General Fund will be transferred to this account, as will other revenues generated at the garden by the Botanical Society and the Garden Club from admissions to the Conservatory and the Japanese Garden, facility rentals, the gift shop, and other service contracts, Zavala said.
That fund is expected to have $5.1 million when it begins, he said.
This is a great step for all the groups to come together.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price
Mayor Betsy Price called the Botanic Garden a jewel, but said it is underused. Moving toward a nonprofit means it will be better operated.
“This is a great step for all the groups to come together,” Price said. “I’m very excited about where you’re going with this,” she told Zavala.
Under the new funding mechanism, there will be enough to add 3.5 positions, to handle such things as housekeeping, hire an electrician, and focus on customer services, which has been an issue.
Moreover, employees that had been funded by the Botanical Society and the Garden Club will now be funded by the city, and employees that had been working for the Botanical Society will become city employees. Both organizations will remain active at the Botanic Garden, doing special projects and events, Zavala said.
The 110-acre Botanic Garden, off University Drive next to the Will Rogers Memorial Complex, opened more than 80 years ago.
In February, the council approved spending $350,000 on a needs assessment of the facility. That report will outline all the work needed at the Botanic Garden, from fixing electrical and plumbing issues, infrastructure work with roads, water and sewer issues, to lighting and fixing the greenhouses and the Conservatory.
Elements of Architecture in Fort Worth will complete its report by August. Zavala said the report will prioritize projects from what’s needed immediately to projects that could be put on hold for a bit. Last year, EMD estimated those costs to run about $15 million.
Currently, visitor impact surveys are being conducted and that will take a year to complete, he said. The consultant wants to get 1,600 person-to-person surveys and at different times of the year with the various events and programs at the gardens.