BOTANIC GARDEN ACCESSIBILITY DETERMINED
Attending the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is no longer free. However, access for as many folks as possible is still a priority, members of the Fort Worth City Council assure.
The council voted during Tuesday's meeting to approve recommendations from the Fort Worth Garden Task Force to allow for a variety of accessibility options.
In October, the task force recommended an admission fee that was approved by council, with various recommended accessibility options, along with approval for transitioning the governance of the Garden to non-profit management.
"If you want it to be a quality site and have nice amenities, change its flora on a regular basis, you have to provide funding," said District 7 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton, in whose district the Botanic Garden lies.
Also, any reductions or elimination of accessibility options must be approved by the city council.
Based on additional research and review, including input from eight cultural institutions (Amon Carter Museum, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, Fort Worth Zoo, Kimbell Art Museum, Log Cabin Village, Museum of Modern Art, and Museum of Science and History), these adjustments were made with Tuesday's vote:
*Family Membership - $80 (adjusted rate and add special needs adult children to family memberships).
*Lone Star Card Discounts (individuals with SNAP/WIC receive discounted family membership) - $30.
*SNAP/WIC through Museum4All program - $1 adult admission and children under age 15 are free.
*MusePass (free family passes available to check out in all City of Fort Worth public libraries).
*Sponsored Field Trips Program (fine-tune school group target grade to meet the needs of the districts).
*Return ticket for field trips students on free and reduced lunch.
*Blue Star Program (free active military admission between Memorial Day and Labor Day).
*Family Community Pass Program (4,500 admission passes distributed through non-profits to their clients, ensuring transportation is also available).
*Add free after-hour family and cultural events at least quarterly, growing to monthly over time.
*Add second and fourth Monday, free first hour in the morning and last hour in the afternoon/evening for residents only.
*Add one half-price Saturday morning, three hours per month.
*Add children under age 18 free from 3-6 p.m. every school day, residents only.
Retained from previously approved fees were:
*Admission: Adults $12, seniors 65-plus $10, children (6-15) $6, ages 5-under free.
*Individual membership (one named adult) $50.
*Dual membership (two named adults) $80.
*Contributing membership (Family plus one additional adult per visit) $200.
*Supporting membership (Family plus two additional adults per visit) $500.
*Sponsor membership (Family plus two adults per visit and two event tickets) $1,000.
"For us to maintain the streets, roads, everything in there, we have to have some money," Shingleton said. "If you want a quality product, there's cost in the upkeep."
The decision was not made without controversy, however. A handful of citizens addressed the council, speaking out in opposition to the changes.
"Your concerns are well documented," Shingleton told the speakers. "The fact remains, if this garden is going to be all it can be, we have to have an influx or injection of financial support. It's more than our budget can handle, considering legislative action of recent months, etc., etc."
Shingleton then assured folks that the financial situation at the Garden will continue to be monitored.
"We're going to do our best, and have done our best, to make sure it's accessible," he said.
District 4 Councilman Cary Moon recalled a personal story of visiting the Garden with his family in the 1970s as a child for photographs. He then voiced his opposition to fees being charged.
"I just think we're getting this wrong. I don't know of a single Fort Worth asset, park, whatever you want to call it, that has more people connected to it," Moon said. "My fear is the barrier of entrance for this park, families choosing to not go out on a Sunday and spend time in front of the flowers and take pictures, sitting at home.
"I hope if we move forward with this, those families will find other places in Fort Worth to enjoy free service - we have the Water Gardens, the Fort Worth Nature Preserve - as opposed to choosing to not go out and do something that may have been free in the past."
Mayor Betsy Price also said the issue will be looked at closely in the next year, adding that "Tonight's proposal is a very thoughtful and very collaborative decision."
Price also said that while she has had her own reservations, she realizes the need for the changes.
"I think all Fort Worth residents deserve access, hence the accessibility options that we're adopting and the promise that we will look at this again and see how attendance is, see if we're drawing all citizens to Fort Worth," she said. "But the Gardens deserve to be robust, beautiful gardens, and the sustainability has to be there."