The Toronto Botanical Garden is pleading with the city to increase its annual funding by $135,000 to let it continue offering its services to the public.
Executive director Aldona Satterthwaite is to appear at the city’s parks and environment committee on Oct. 15 asking for a funding increase to $160,000 from $25,000, with built-in, cost-of-living increases.
At the same time, the centre is launching the Hearts and Flowers Fundraising Campaign to raise $250,000 by Dec. 31, 2012.
Maintenance costs have increased over the years, especially after an $8-million revitalization campaign in 2008, which saw the arrival of a LEED silver-certified building, two green roofs and 12 new gardens at the Leslie Street and Lawrence Avenue tourist attraction.
It now pays about $400,000 in maintenance annually.
The Toronto Botanical Garden also lost significant money following a parking lot renovation done by the city.
“We lost more than two-thirds of our parking, so people were only able to park at the very far end,” Satterthwaite said.
“We lost business in our rentals, we lost business in our shop because people couldn’t get close enough, people cancelled events.… There was a lot of financial loss as a result of all those things.”
All in all, they lost about $180,000 in potential earnings.
Donations and grants the garden relies on to cover a portion of its maintenance costs are also down.
But services like shop sales, facility rentals and classes are doing fine.
“Everything we do here has been going great,” Satterthwaite said. “The shop is making money, membership is going up, but there’s a lot of things we can’t do here, like collect admission or charge for parking.”
As part of its agreement with the city, the garden occupies its building rent-free and the city covers major structural repairs, such as a roof collapse, as well as basic utilities and snow clearing.
But it’s just not enough to sustain Toronto’s only botanical garden, which now has 17 gardens.
“If we are to maintain the level of services we offer now to the community we need that extra boost,” Satterthwaite said. “We’ve always done it ourselves, but it’s just becoming almost impossible.”
Satterthwaite said she is grateful for the city’s help, but as the garden has grown tremendously over the past 35 years, she believe it’s time the city’s contribution grows too.
“We are appreciative of what we get,” she said. “We’re not asking for zillions of dollars here.”
Satterthwaite said Torontonians should care about the future of the Toronto Botanical Garden because it’s more than just a garden —
it’s also an educational space complete with attractions such as beehives and a children’s centre.
“We’re like the plant equivalent of, say, the AGO or the ROM.… We’re kind of a living community centre.”
You can contribute to the fundraising campaign online at torontobotanicalgarden.ca/heart.