Overland Park Arboretum admission fee starts this week

Those braving the cold this week for a stroll through the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens will encounter something new: an admission fee.

Beginning Wednesday, the 300-acre nature park is charging $3 for adults and children older than 12 and $1 for children ages 6 to 12. Children younger than 6 will continue to get in for free.

The city expects that the fee will raise about $103,000, parks director Greg Ruether said. That revenue will go into the Overland Park general budget to help offset the arboretum’s operating cost.

Arboretum supervisor Karen Kerkhoff said charging an admission fee is natural for any botanical garden and is necessary to help offset costs for upkeep and improvement.

“When the city purchased the property 20-plus years ago, it was always assumed there would be an admissions fee associated with the arboretum, and this is the year it takes effect,” Kerkhoff said.

Georgia Erickson, a member of the Friends of the Arboretum, said that the fee will make visitors more invested in the arboretum. She doubts that the admissions price will deter visitors.

The arboretum saw record attendance in 2012, with 165,000 visitors, Kerkhoff said. The previous record was 141,000. Kerkhoff attributes the increase to beautiful weather and new attractions, including a Train Garden that opened last year.

“The arboretum has grown from a little half-mile trail to an enormous feature for the city with gardens and trailsand I see but nothing but good things for the years to come,” said Erickson, who served on the Overland Park City Council when the city purchased the arboretum.

In March 2012, the Overland Park City Council voted to institute a $5 fee for adults and a $3 fee for children. But the council amended that decision to allow for more time to research the amount that should be charged. It settled on the current price in November.

Compared to other Missouri botanical gardens, the arboretum’s price isn’t extravagant. The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis charges $8 for adults, and Powell Gardens charges $10 for adults during the summer.

During 2013, visitors can still see the arboretum for free on Tuesdays, and the arboretum will designate two weekends during the year where no admission will be collected. Admission will be free with a Friends of the Arboretum membership, which ranges from $35 to $75.

The arboretum opened in 1990 and is located just west of U.S. 69 on 179th Street.

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