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Botanical Garden is worth the wait

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It’s been a long time coming – six years, in fact from conception and lease to the grand opening of the first portion of what will, eventually, be a 14-acre garden.

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden opens to the public today, with 6,000 plants and trees, a transplanted historic bridge, some shady ramadas and a full complement of park benches. When finished, it will include an ethnobotanical garden with medicinal, food and other useful plants, plus structures suitable for hosting events. And of course, paths and trails throughout, lined by local rock, water catchments and more.

The garden is the work of a nonprofit and a host of volunteers who helped design and build it, and who are raising most of the $7.5 million the garden is expected to cost when it is completed, in 2017.

It’s also another example of the kind of public-private collaboration that has given Santa Fe any number of iconic institutions, ranging from the farmers market to all the other venerable and justly celebrated summer art markets and more, including The Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Our only criticism at this point is that entrance to this splendid new outdoor space won’t be free, except to members of the nonprofit. The $5 per adult entrance fee will help offset maintenance, or maybe, if enough people pay up, generate money to help build the next two phases of the garden. A year membership in the nonprofit is $35 per individual or $60 for a household – well worth it if you intend to visit often, but not something every Santa Fe family can afford.

Let’s remember that public money was spent on this endeavor, too, at least back in the beginning. (State funding hasn’t been forthcoming under the current Republican administration – Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed garden funding not once but twice.)

Accordingly, we’d like to see the nonprofit that runs the garden open it up free to the public occasionally. Perhaps the organization could follow the lead of the nearby state museums, which allow free admission every Sunday to New Mexico residents.

In any case, Santa Fe Botanical Garden (www.santafebotanicalgarden.org) is getting off on the right foot with the free grand opening today and a series of free events on the next couple of Saturdays. Go up to Museum Hill, off Camino Lejo, and take a look!

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