UCSC Arboretum will institute admission fees starting July 1

The Arboretum features 120 acres of gardens and natural areas and the largest collections of Australian and New Zealand plants outside of those countries. Photo by S. McCabe.

The Arboretum at UC Santa Cruz will institute new admission fees effective July 1, 2008. Admission will continue to be free for Arboretum members and UCSC students, and there will be one free Community Day each month.

The change is necessary to provide adequate funds for maintaining the plant collections and gardens, according to the Arboretum's development director Tad Sterling. The Arboretum features 120 acres of gardens and natural areas with spectacular views of the Monterey Bay and the largest collections of Australian and New Zealand plants outside of those countries. It contains significant collections of conifers and rare and extraordinary plants from California and South Africa.

The Arboretum has been supported primarily by donations, memberships, dedicated volunteers, grants, and contracts. Support from the University has accounted for 12 to 20 percent of the Arboretum's annual funding. Voluntary donation boxes have raised some support, but not enough to offset inflation and the costs of an increasing number of visitors.

"We are asking visitors to help share some of the costs of the visitor services they receive," Sterling explained.

Admission will continue to be free for school groups on field trips, and there will be no charge to access the areas and trails of the Arboretum outside of the main fences. The fees for commercial bus tours will be raised to match the new garden admission fees.

The changes came about after a long organizational-effectiveness planning process that compared the Arboretum with other public gardens and included input from hundreds of members of the public, Arboretum members, and the campus community.

"While we would prefer to have free admission, in the current economic conditions this is not possible," said Arboretum director Daniel Harder. "It would take a little over $100,000 per year in new donations to offset the costs of providing visitor services such as maps, signs, brochures, school tours, student weeders for the high visitor-use areas, answering phone questions, and maintaining clear paths."

Charging admission fees is one of several ways the Arboretum is working to meet the challenge of raising most of its operating and education budgets each year. It is also renting facilities for meetings and events, expanding publicity for the gift shop, and seeking sponsorships for events and garden projects. Casualties of the recent budget challenges include the cancellation of the popular Arboretum Music Series and a reduction in the number of students hired.

Arboretum admission fees as of July 1, 2008, are as follows:

. $5 for adults

. $2 for children (6 to 17 years old)

. Free to children under 6 years old

. Free to those going only to Norrie's Gift Shop

. Free to Arboretum Associates members and Arboretum volunteers

. Free to UCSC students

. Free to members of the American Horticulture Society

. Free on Community Day, the first Tuesday of each month.

Members of the Arboretum will now get in free at more than 100 gardens nationwide that participate in the American Horticulture Society Reciprocal Admissions program. A list of participating gardens is available online. Memberships are available for purchase at the Arboretum.

Norrie's Gift Shop is a volunteer-run store that gives all of its proceeds to the maintenance of the gardens and collections. Some of that funding supports student interns and student workers. Norrie's is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. The Arboretum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. More information is available on the Arboretum web site.