After years of germination, plans for renovations to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden – the oldest botanic garden in California – are almost in bloom.
The garden – a private, non-profit organization founded in 1926 – recently announced its Vital Mission Plan, a program designed to update many of the gardens’ facilities, including staff housing, offices, laboratories and library. Although the County Planning Commission and board of supervisors must approve the proposal before it can take effect, planners said they are hopeful construction will begin next year.
SBBG Vice President of Development and Marketing Nancy Johnson said the gardens have served the community for many years. The main purpose of the gardens is to educate the community about plants and their conservation, conduct research and exhibit horticultural displays.
According to the SB Botanic Garden’s Web site, California is one of the Earth’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, which means that it is an area with an unusually high number of species. One goal of the garden is to prevent extinction of the 1,700 threatened species in the state.
Johnson said the most popular exhibit in the garden is its horticultural display, which features plants from California’s various ecological zones.
“The botanic gardens have an emphasis on native plants, and we seek to advance knowledge and understanding,” she said.
Kate Schwab, a supporter of the SB Botanic Garden and frequent visitor, said she thinks the gardens are a beautiful addition to Santa Barbara.
“Every time I walk in, it’s so gorgeous,” she said. “It’s a fabulous asset to the community.”
Although the gardens are already well known for the beautiful displays and educational classes, Johnson said she believes the Vital Mission Plan will benefit the existing facilities and create an even better environment for employees and visitors.
“The Vital Mission Plan would help us provide better working conditions for our staff, help us protect our plant and herbarium collections and allow us to build a new educational facility,” she said.
Johnson said the program would also update the library, which was built in 1942, and allow for a new horticultural center with state of the art equipment.
The gardens’ staff has already submitted an environmental impact report and begun preparing to appear in front of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission in January. If the planning commission accepts the report, it will then go to the board of supervisors for review this spring.
Johnson said she is optimistic about the new plan and said she believes the community will help the gardens raise its needed funds.
“We have a tremendous amount of community support,” she said.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, located at 1212 Mission Canyon Rd. in Santa Barbara, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day starting in November, and admission is $8.