Fort Worth City Council approves admission discount for Botanic Garden

After decades of free admission, visitors next month will pay a fee at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

Fort Worth city leaders approved a plan on Tuesday aimed at making access easier with discounts.

The fees were going to go into effect at the 85-year-old garden on July 19, regardless. But as part of the vote last year to greenlight fees, the council told city staff to come up with programs that would allow certain times and certain groups to get in for free or at a discount.

In November ahead of the vote to add admission fees, Botanic Garden staff showed some of the aging infrastructure. A task force found the garden was chronically underfunded to the tune of more than $1 million a year.

Despite opposition from people upset, the garden they had been going to for decades would no longer be free. The council approved the measure.

Some had expressed concerns it would make the garden less accessible for certain demographics. So the council directed staff to work with cultural institutions in the city and come up with a plan. That includes things like a free first and last hour on the second and fourth Monday for residents only, half price Saturday morning, a family membership and a sponsored field trip program.

But some believe it doesn't go far enough.

“My suggestion is that you postpone this. It’s not quite right,” said Lon Burnham, a former state representative. “This can wait until your August meeting where you can continue to throw out some paltry admissions to the city.”

“We still have a substantial amount of the population that's going to be shut out of the Botanic Garden,” said Nancy Stevens with the League of Women Voters.

The city says the plan will meet the needs of underserved communities. They plan to distribute 4,500 free family passes to groups that work with underserved communities. 

Mayor Betsy Price and some of the other council members said they would be open to tweaking the plan in the future depending on how it goes, but many said it is necessary based on the current needs at the garden.