Misconceptions about the Ventura Botanical Gardens

One day the Ventura Botanical Gardens will again look like this.

by Barbara Brown Ventura Botanical Gardens, President

Over the last few weeks since the Merewether Welcome Center opened, we’ve heard some misconceptions about the Gardens. Most of them come in the form of questions, so we thought we’d share them here:

Isn’t this public land?

In 2012, VBG built the first garden pathway and installed the first plants on brushy slopes that previously had no access. In 2015, VBG was granted a long-term lease for the land and took on the challenge of building and maintaining it through private funding, grants and donations. Part of our long term general plan included paid admission. Many cities opt to engage in public/private partnerships when they do not have taxpayer funds to develop or maintain a property or asset.

Why do I have to pay for a public trail?

 Most hiking trails, like those in the Santa Monica Mountains or Los Padres National Forest, were built, funded and maintained through ongoing taxpayer dollars. VBG does not receive ongoing funds from either the City’s annual budget, the state budget or the federal government. Over the past 18 months, it’s become clear that the Gardens need support from the people that visit it. We’d like to continue free access, but we can’t do that and provide for short or long term sustainability. With an interest in being as inclusive as possible, we offer free access on Tuesdays along with free scheduled guided tours. Children age 18 and under are also free, as are EBT card holders, and educational groups.

The cost of $7 per visit is too high. Couldn’t it be more like $2 per visit?

A great deal of thought and consideration was given to the cost. Comparative research was done between other non-governmentally funded gardens and we felt this pricing model the best for balancing sustainability and affordability. For those who visit the Gardens often, the $45 annual membership fee is equivalent to $3.75 per month. If you use it 4 times in a month, that’s equivalent to 93 cents per visit. Many were visiting every day or even twice a day, so for frequent visitors, the cost becomes significantly less than $2.

I like to visit in the morning and in the evenings. Can you extend the hours?

We are considering extending the hours when funding becomes available,

Why are dogs only allowed on Tuesday and Wednesday?

In the interest of being inclusive, rather than exclusive, we want to ensure that anyone visiting our garden can enjoy it free of distraction. We’ve had many complaints about dogs, but we don’t want to exclude them entirely, so we have opened up two days a week for dogs. In addition, because we are an organization about plant conservation and education, we have to balance environmental and conservation issues.

How did the gardens fare after the devastating Thomas Fire?

The entirety of the Gardens burned and every plant was, in some way, touched by the fire. The good news is that some of the plants survived. For example, the pepper trees at Summit Plateau look almost untouched. Most of our plants, however, were burned and many to the ground.

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