A large gathering attended the grand opening for the Botanical Gardens.
The Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG) held its grand reopening on Saturday, November 3. The Gardens have been closed nearly one year since the Thomas Fire. The fire swept through the entire 109 acres of the park; very few plants were spared.
Now many of the original plants are showing signs of recovery, and many new specimens have been planted. Fire-damaged walkways were repaired or rebuilt. A new hand-hewn rock staircase is now in place and the long-awaited Merewether Welcome Center is open.
Funded through the generosity of Mike and Loretta Merewether and designed by architect Martha Picciotti, the Center includes a check-in kiosk, an information center, educational space, a stage, a community gathering area, storage and a much-needed restroom.
A limited morning event, attended by hundreds was held including a ribbon cutting with Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere, along with a Welcome Center dedication. At noon, the Gardens opened to the public.
“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. “
“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, or for those who aren’t members, $7 per day, children 18 and under, are free. For those who can’t afford the low annual membership, EBT cards will be accepted.”
Mike Merewether told the gathering “It was a joy to see this become a reality and thanks to all for their support. We are so glad to be here to see it come to fruition. It feels more like Spring than Fall – a time of new beginnings.”
“The Welcome center will be an exciting place for learning, volunteering and connecting with one another and Nature. It is a testament to a good public private partnership. It is significant to me that it is exactly 100 years after the Grant family donated the land for Grant Park to the City.”
“With growth of garden and Welcome Center, comes a need for more Staff. Thus far we have managed with a small staff and many volunteers. As Fundraising Campaign Chair, I would be remiss in not mentioning that we have many opportunities and need for financial support / naming opportunities ranging from the new stage behind us, to flower beds, trees or even steps.”
The Welcome Center was designed by Architect Martha Picciotti who stated “It’s with great pleasure that I am here today, celebrating with all of you the culmination of one of many seeds that have been planted since my involvement, beginning in 2008 with this wonderful organization and group of people. I especially want to thank the Cities Jeff Lambert and Dave Ward, without whom this would not have been possible. “
“From Joe Cahill I came to understand the importance of creating a welcome center. It had to be affordable and easy to build, as funds were limited. I was always interested in shipping container design and I met Matt Roberts, who would be selling and outfitting shipping containers in Camarillo. Matt volunteered to take over as project manager for the build out. Not only did he provide the shipping containers at cost, Matt donated hundreds of hours.”
The opening of the welcome center represents many people coming together. Major donors like the Meriwether’s, Matt, Noah Greer and Nicole Horn, who designed and supervised the installation of the entry gates, platform and landscaping, Ken Luci who donated his electrical expertise and Dave Schaub, a local builder for supervising the foundation.”
“Today my heart is full of gratitude and love for all of the wonderful people who have made the welcome center and botanical gardens possible.”
To find out visiting information and more, visit www.VenturaBotanicalGardens.com and on Facebook.