These anniversary initiatives are a significant outcome of thoughtful and careful discussions involving trustees, staff, volunteers, members and community experts. Recent improvements in visitor amenities, illustrate the Garden’s commitment to continuing this process, concurrent with implementation of ambitious plans.
The popularity of the Garden masks a simple fact: families with children are not the majority of those visiting the trails and galleries throughout the year. Programs for school groups and special festivals encourage attendance by children and their parents. However, with the exception of temporary, seasonal exhibits, trails that adults favor are not favorites of many children under the age of twelve. This is a challenge to an institution with a long-standing commitment to education for all ages. By itself, the Garden’s outstanding collections and exhibits offer the most accessible public program for the community. Yet as it stands, the Garden is incomplete.
We propose to invest significant resources in planning a future Children/Family Garden as a destination “garden within the Garden.” For the Desert Botanical Garden, the new Children/Family Garden will benefit from lessons learned by other public gardens and arboreta which have created similar facilities. Benchmark research demonstrates that successful children and family gardens take many years to develop, prior to construction, and they engage local young people, parents, teachers and child development experts in the planning. During 2012 to 2017 we will create a comprehensive program and Children/Family Garden design, anticipating the plan will be implemented and the new garden constructed from 2017 to 2022. The future installation will support the Garden’s total mission, with special focus on dynamic and engaging educational exhibits. Sited on a three-acre parcel, the garden will feature indoor spaces, restrooms and other amenities for daily visitors. The scale and scope of this future project will make it the most significant construction effort since completion of the Growing a Legacy for Generations $17 million capital improvement program in 2002.
The Garden’s goal is to be the premier center in the world for the display, study and understanding of desert plants and their environments. To do this we recognize the importance of engaging visitors in a compelling story and creating a seamless series of interpretive experiences. The Garden’s permanent exhibits are located on five trails that encompass 50 acres. These exhibits educate visitors about desert plant adaptations, plant and animal relationships, ethnobotany, conservation and horticulture.
As we implement the Core Trail Master Plan with new galleries, the expanded Butterfly Pavilion and a future Children/Family Garden, we must also develop a new Garden-wide Interpretive Master Plan to meet our programmatic goals and enhance the overall visitor experience. While the Garden’s interpretive programs and exhibits are well-respected by national garden and museum peers, our Interpretive Master Plan has not been updated since 1997.
As summarized in the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, the Garden is positioned for growth in the areas of horticulture, research, conservation and exhibition. These initiatives reflect our commitment to connecting physical site improvements with collections development and outstanding interpretation.
The Garden will develop a revised Interpretive Master Plan to coordinate focused messages that are consistent and clear, providing a road map to improved visitor experiences, personal interactions, signage, special exhibitions and new media applications. The plan will help ensure that visitors are even better prepared for learning about deserts, arid-land plants and conservation.
The Garden is already a high quality, memorable visitor experience. The Interpretive Master Plan aims to maximize our opportunities to make deeper, meaningful connections with visitors. The more people learn and appreciate, the more likely they are to want to preserve the Sonoran Desert for generations to come.
Each year the Garden generates approximately $2.5-$3 million in memberships and philanthropic support for annual operations. In recent history, members and donors have responded to special gift opportunities with significant contributions to the Growing a Legacy for Generations capital improvement effort ($17 million in 1999-2001), Tending the Garden campaign ($17.8 million in 2006-08), which included a major endowment goal, and the Chihuly Desert Towers initiative ($700,000 in 2009-10).
Step-up investments in creative communications with Garden stakeholders, members and the community are planned over the next five years including 75th Anniversary marketing, publications and a series of events to launch special Garden initiatives.