With an estimated $15 million worth of improvements needed at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, city officials are looking at funding options as part of its 2016 Strategic Plan – one of which may include charging a fee for admission.

“The real key here is to be sure that we are operating in a way that the taxpayers get the best return on their funds, that we are good stewards of the garden,” said Botanic Garden director Bob Byers.

The first meetings about the garden’s strategic plan began in April after the city hired St. Louis-based EMD Consulting Group to conduct a study on the garden’s operations, organization and finances, as well as come up with strategies to implement the garden’s 2010 Master Plan.

Byers said EMD estimates that about the garden needs about $15 million worth of facility improvements and suggests charging an admission fee to help pay for the work. Admission to the garden is currently free, though fees are charged for entrance to the Japanese Garden.

However, Byers said he’d like to consider other options for funding the improvements, such as private donations, which the garden plans to “actively pursue.”

“There are other funding options in the plan, it’s just that it appears to them that admission fee is the best one, but it’s certainly not the only one we’re looking at,” he said.

In addition to funding options, the garden is also looking to streamline its budget. Currently the garden has three budgets from three separate entities that manage the garden – the Fort Worth Botanical Society, Fort Worth Garden Club and the City of Fort Worth. Byers said the garden hopes to create one single budget, as well as a single entity that manages the garden.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is expected to vote on the Strategic Plan on Aug. 24. The city council is scheduled to hear a briefing on the plan Sept. 20, with a vote planned for Sept. 27.

The vote will be to approve the Strategic Plan but any policy implementation, such as charging an admission fee, will need to be voted on separately, Byers said. If an admission fee were to be implemented, it likely won’t happen until 2018, he said.

In the meantime, Byers said the public is invited to each of the strategic planning meetings. More information can be found on the Botanic Garden’s website: http://www.fwbg.org/strategic-plan

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