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Fort Worth Botanic Garden looking to community for input on overhaul of one of city's top attractions

The new master plan could reshape the gardens for the next several decades.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is rethinking and reshaping its design and programs.

The garden is one of the city’s top attractions, with nearly 250,000 people visiting in 2021, but this week it began the process of getting community input on a master plan that will change it for the next 20 years.

“I hope people view the botanic garden as one of the hearts of this city,” CEO Patrick Newman said. “There are generations of residents who have a deep tie or a memory with or have taken an emotional souvenir from this space.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, the garden held the first two of six community forums planned for at different sites across the city.

The goal is to get input from both longtime members, but especially communities that don’t often visit.

The garden changed from city-run to privately managed in October 2020 and began charging admission, a move many pushed back on. Despite that, attendance has been up significantly, according to Newman.

“Relevance, perception, transportation, those are more important issues in terms of accessibility,” Newman said.

Only about a dozen people showed up Wednesday’s meeting, and that’s exactly why the new plan is happening.

“We want to hear from the public and particularly from voices that we don’t hear from traditionally,” Newman said.

They’re trying to incentivize more people to show up by offering a free family pass to the garden to anyone who attends a meeting.

Phyllis Harkins became a member when she moved to the city nine months ago and believes the gardens need an update.

“If we don’t take care of these environments, they’re going to be gone someday,” she said. “I think it should be more interactive, more things for families, for kids. I don’t know that it’s really as interactive as it could be with families and children.”

Newman says a family garden is at the top of the list of changes guests will see soon. Other ideas in the works include adding permanent infrastructure for events like Concerts in the Garden and replacing roads with walkways and plazas.

After public input is finalized, the garden will be working on fundraising and then implementing the changes of the next couple years.

“We’re thinking about what sort of community programs, what sort of educational programs can we design spaces for,” Newman said. “One of the things we really want to do is tell a more seamless story so as you enter the garden and you experience every aspect of it.”

Don’t expect changes to classic features like the rose garden, but there are many areas that haven’t been updated in decades.

Most important, the garden will reflect the city. Fort Worth is changing, and it’s time one of its biggest attractions does, too.

“We want this to be place where we all gather, where we all belong,” Newman said. “We want this to be a place where everyone feels welcome.”

There are four remaining public meetings:

Saturday, January 29th from 10:00am-12:00pm at MLK Jr. Community Center (5565 Truman Dr, Fort Worth, TX 76112)

Wednesday, February 2nd from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Chisholm Trail Community Center (4936 McPherson Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76123)

Thursday, February 3rd from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Heritage Church (4201 Heritage Trace Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76244)

Monday, February 7th from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Worth Heights Community Center (3551 New York Ave., TX 76110)