Fort Worth adds admission fee to botanic garden

The Fort Worth City Council voted to move forward with a plan to add an admission fee at the popular botanic garden.

Right now, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is free to all visitors. But officials say the garden desperately needs some pricey upgrades.

It was a decision considered controversial by folks who have gone to the garden for free for decades. Thirty-five people were scheduled to speak Tuesday night. About 27 of those against were against the measure to add fees and other changes.

Despite the pushback, city council members voted 8-1 to approve the amendment. The plan is to charge an adult $12 for the entrance, $10 for seniors and $6 for kids. But they directed staff to look at options to make the entry free for Fort Worth residents and students.

Some people questioned the data collected by the task force that came to the conclusion that admission fees are needed.

But Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s Director Bob Byers says it might not survive if something isn’t done.

“We want people in the garden. That's why we're here,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to fund the place and make sure that its adequately funded so we can take care of it properly.”

A task force found the garden was chronically underfunded to the tune of more than $1 million a year. So it made the recommendation to add admission fees. Byers says it’s important to the garden's survival.

“It’s an economic engine, education resource, and it’s a public educational resource,” Byers said. “And all those things need to be happening and happening at a much higher level than they're happening right here because we can't do them financially.”

The move was not without opposition. More than 20 people showed up at the Fort Worth City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the idea that the garden they love might no longer be free.

Others had serious concerns about the impact fees will have on the garden’s audience.

“To make the gardens less welcome for marginalized audiences will make it less diverse,” said Mindia Whittier.

The proposed fees are set to take effect July 2019.