At long last… the wait is over. The Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG) recently announced its grand reopening date scheduled for Saturday, November 3. The Gardens have been closed nearly one year, since December 5, 2017, due to the widespread damage caused by the Thomas Fire. The fire swept through the entire 109 acres of the park; very few plants were spared.
Now nearly a year later, many of the original plants are showing signs of recovery, and many new specimens have been planted. During the closure, many changes have taken place. Fire-damaged walkways were repaired or rebuilt. A new hand hewn rock staircase is now in place near the entrance of the Chilean Gardens, and the long-awaited Merewether Welcome Center will open. Funded through the generosity of Mike and Loretta Merewether and designed by architect Martha Picciotti with work donated by Matt Roberts of Quality Containers, the Center will include a check-in kiosk, an information center, educational space, a stage, a community gathering area, storage and a much-needed restroom. The Gardens now have roughly 2,000 plants in the collection.
A morning event is planned including a ribbon cutting with Deputy Mayor, Matt LaVere, and a Welcome Center dedication. At noon, the Gardens will be open to the public, with garden walks by local tour guide Lorie McWhirter, and nature talks from garden experts.
“We are so excited about re-opening the Gardens,” states Barbara Brown, VBG President, who also lost her home in the Thomas Fire. “This will be a very bright moment for a community that has struggled through a very difficult year. It means so much to all of us, that this iconic community place will reopen.”
She continues, “We’ll also be opening the new Fynbos Gardens as well, highlighting the flora of the Cape of South Africa. It seems fitting that this Garden be inaugurated in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire because plants in the Cape of South Africa have a life cycle in which fire plays a critical role. For many, smoke is required for seeds to germinate.”
The Fynbos Garden has been planted with a multitude of the protea and ericas — two of the more exotic and showy South African flowering displays. The bridge and dry creek bed work that began before the fire, is also complete.
“With the regrowth and expanded plantings needed after the Thomas fire, it has become clear that ongoing financial sustainability is critical for the maintenance, operation and expansion of the Gardens,” said Joe Cahill, Executive Director. “We are implementing a membership fee, but we want visitors to enjoy the Gardens affordably, so we’ve kept the annual fee to $45 per year, less than a cup of coffee a day, or for those who aren’t members, $7 per day. And, children 18 and under, are always free.” For those who can’t afford the low annual membership, EBT cards will be accepted.
On Tuesdays, the Gardens are free for everyone. Monthly scheduled guided tours are also free. Additionally, the Gardens plan to be free on most major holidays with the exception of July 4. The new hours are from 9am to 5pm, with possible extended hours in the future. The upper gardens above Summit Drive remain free to the public. Dogs are welcome on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Located at Grant Park the Ventura Botanical Gardens’ goals include encouraging visitors to strengthen their connection to nature. To find out more, visit www.VenturaBotanicalGardens.com and Facebook.
The Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG) is located at 567 S. Poli St. behind city hall. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to creating a botanical garden for the twenty-first century celebrating the Mediterranean climate regions. The setting is a world-class site with spectacular 180-degree views of the California coast and the Channel Islands. VBG will continue to create new outdoor opportunities including for training, research, and educational programs ranging from horticulture and botany to sustainability.