Next week, the UC Botanical Garden will start reopening to visitors after being closed for more than three months — first to members Tuesday, and then to the general public July 22.
The 34-acre garden boasts more than 10,000 types of plants, including a large collection of California native plants as well as species whose origins range from Italy to South America, according to its website. The garden also serves as a site for plant research and conservation projects.
According to a press release from the garden, it has developed and enacted new procedures to ensure the safety of guests and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include implementing reserved ticketed entry, limiting the number of visitors at each time and to less than 200 each day and requiring face masks for visitors older than the age of 5.
“We couldn’t do anything until the governor issued guidelines for outdoor gardens and for outdoor museums,” said Lewis Feldman, executive director of the garden and a UC Berkeley plant biology professor.
Instead, Feldman said the garden found ways to connect with its members and the public through online programs, including an ethnobotany symposium that drew more than 100 attendees.
“Because we have a living collection, it’s not like a museum and we can’t just stop caring for the plants,” Feldman said, explaining that staff members continued to work in the garden throughout its closure. “The only downside is that during the best time for the garden, which is spring, when everything was flowering, nobody was able to see it except for the staff.”
Feldman added that as a result of the garden’s closure to visitors, he has seen many more birds and lizards, and staff members have occasionally spotted turkeys and other small animals.
About 85% of the garden’s budget is generated on its own, with only a small percent coming from UC Berkeley, according to Feldman. However, the garden was able to avoid staff layoffs despite its reduced revenues during the closure.
“We want to encourage students to come up and take what’s called a contemplative tour, which suggests places in the garden for people to just chill out and relax,” Feldman said, adding that a shuttle brings students directly to the garden, which he called a good place to “think about nature a little bit and think about the wild environment.”
Feldman added that the opening of the Botanical Garden is one of the first steps in the general campus reopening, and a successful reopening will help convince parents that it is safe to send their kids to campus.