In late July, Mobile Botanical Gardens (MBG) sent out an exciting announcement to their members (of which I am one!). In short? A bunch o’ cash. Multiple new sources, like the City itself, and community foundations have pledge money to keep MBG open and help it flourish. Whereas the park used to operate all 100-some acres on just a half a million a year, cobbling together the funds could give the Gardens over $1M a year in endowments for operating costs.
The gardens were founded in 1974, with the City of Mobile donating $5000 annually to help operation costs. Despite inflation over the years, and the fact that the City of Mobile owns the property where the Gardens reside, that number has not gone up.
As a 501 c-3 nonprofit, Mobile Botanical Gardens has its fair share of monetary issues. In fact, this is not the first time the MBG has had to ask for financial help. In September 2019, the Gardens almost had to shutter their doors due to lack of funding. Luckily, the Gardens were able to restore operations due to community advocacy, largely Councilwoman Gina Gregory (District 7), who has been using discretionary funds to the tune of around $150,000 a year to help keep the doors open for the past four years. The main contributor to the MBG budget? Their plant sales, which happen fairly often.
Receiving a pretty *peony*
However, scraping together enough funds to keep the area accessible to Mobilians didn’t solve the underlying problem—MBG is chronically underfunded.
In an effort to prevent past troubles from reoccurring, current MBG President, Dr. Jack Di Palma helped broker a $150,000/year contract from the City. Therefore, the City will be responsible for 30% of MBG’s operating costs per year, helping out with building and grounds maintenance. The goal with this funding is to help the MBG get back on its feet and become a community hotspot, much like Botanical Gardens in larger cities like Birmingham.
Commitment from both the City and the Gardens prompted other community funds to promise money as well. The Community Foundation of South Alabama also stepped in, pledging a $500,000 endowment to the effort to revamp the MBG. The Community Foundation’s Wayne Denson Fund also pledged $250,000 in matched funds, so for every dollar–up to $250,000–MBG raises, it can be matched. That means there’s almost $1M in endowment funds up-for-grabs.
Have a little *fern* over at MBG
In the meantime, the best way you can support the MBG is to visit! They have day-passes available and if you love it, you can try out a membership. There are over 100 acres of beautiful foliage, including one of the few International Camellia Society gardens. Plus, they have mini-art lessons, catered lunches on the lawn, and more community events. Don’t forget about their plants for sale too, you can take home a little piece of the gardens for yourself.
MBG is both adult and kid-friendly with tons of trails to explore and cool activities to participate in. You can’t beat the location either, as it’s right by the Mobile Museum of Art and Langan Park, it’s super easy to make a whole day of it!
- Address: 151 Museum Dr, Mobile, AL 36608
- Hours: Closed Mon & Tues; Wed & Fri: 9 am – 4 pm; Thurs: 9 am – 5pm; Sat: 10am – 3pm; Sun: 12pm – 3pm
- Contact: 251-342-0555 | Website | Facebook
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