Some time ago I signed up to be a volunteer at Wellfield Botanic Gardens. I was told that I had to pay for a police background check on myself before I could volunteer. However, I would receive a “Wellfield Volunteer T-shirt.” I should have known something was wrong when I had to pay out of my pocket to give them free labor. I also bought a charter membership at Wellfield, wanting to support the gardens. It bothered me that they started charging admission to people who did not buy in to the “membership program.” I let my membership drop.
I recently went on a Tuesday to take a picture of Sophie Starzenski’s paver (she lived with me the last 10 years of her life) to send to her nieces in California. I gave Wellfield $500 to have the paver made. I had my 17-year-old miniature dachshund with me and was told I would have to pay $20 to take my dog in with me to snap a quick picture. Needless to say, while the gardens are indeed beautiful, I can no longer volunteer for Wellfield as they have made admission to their gardens cost-prohibitive to many impoverished people of Elkhart.
Sure, you can get in free on Tuesday, but maybe you work or it is raining.
I put these questions to staff at the Gardens and they either did not know or refused to answer: Do the Gardens pay property taxes to the city of Elkhart? When the Rotary donated the land for the Gardens, was it aware that there was going to be an admission charge? How do you decide who is a professional photographer and who is not?
I do not object to paying a fee for entry for a special event like the Envirofest.