ELKHART — City residents will have free access to Wellfield Botanic Gardens on Tuesdays following a change to its lease agreement with the city.
The Elkhart Board of Public Works unanimously approved the amendment Tuesday morning.
The board in February approved an agreement to allow city residents free access for 12 hours per week, two hours each day Monday through Saturday. At that time, City Engineer Mike Machlan expressed disappointment, saying the board's original intent was to have a whole day for city residents to enjoy the gardens.
The agreement approved Tuesday addresses Machlan's concern.
Likely in June, admission at the gardens will be $5 per adult per day. However, annual memberships also will be available for $35 per person, which also includes admission to 270 other gardens which have reciprocal agreements as part of the American Botanical Society. There also will be family, grandparent and dog memberships as well.
The 36 acres of gardens include annual, English country and wildflower gardens with structures, plantings, a bridge and waterfall. The landscaping takes advantage of the unique features of the park.
In all, plans call for 23 gardens, event spaces and visitor and horticultural centers.
This year, the gardens will expand again, constructing a waterfall garden — complete with a glass gazebo overlooking Christiana Creek — and a children's garden with tree houses. More artwork and a temporary visitor's cottage also will be added.
Wellfield Gardens also is leasing a portion of the former utility billing office from the city for its new offices.
Eric Amt, executive director of the gardens, said the free hours — from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays — will be more convenient for city residents. Those hours will begin when the temporary, modular visitor's cottage is complete in June. City residents will have to show proof of residency.
The temporary cottage will be installed by the parking lot and will include restrooms and a retail sales area. Gardens staff also will be able to sell memberships, tributes and pavers.
Meanwhile, Amt said the gardens is interested in the old Selmer property north of the gardens for parking once the event garden is constructed. “We have to buy it, so we have to raise the money,” Amt said. “It's part of a capital campaign for when we're ready to build the big visitor's center.”
The large event garden will have a 1,000-person capacity and on-site parking will be needed, Amt said. “That's way down the road. Really way down the road.”
Tulips & Tunes
What: Tulips & Tunes outdoor marketplace and festival
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5
Where: Wellfield Botanic Gardens, 1011 N. Main St., Elkhart
Cost: $5 per person; $4 for members; children 12 and younger admitted free
What: Garden tours, plant sales, seminars, vendor market, music, food and kids' activities are planned.
Dedications: Three features of the Wellfield gardens will be dedicated at the event, including the Conversation Gardens sponsored by Steven and Jane Poe and Jim and Sydney Rieckhoff; the Lotus Creek Garden by the Kurt Janowsky family; and the South Promenade Bridge by John and Judy Goebel.
What's more: This is the third year for the event, but the first time it is open to the public. Vendors will include landscape and garden treasures, art, antiques and crafts. Hourly seminars will include experts on gardening and the environment. Children's activities are planned by ETHOS, the Elkhart Environmental Center and the gardens.
To find out more: Call 266-2006; on the web, wellfieldgardens.org.