Without immediate support from the community, gardens may close by the end of summer
By Anna-Marie Menhenott
FORT PIERCE -- Due to financial woes, Heathcote Botanical Gardens may close its gates by summer's end.
According to Cris Adams, president of the Board of Trustees, the garden has taken severe financial hits on several fronts. The recession created a drop in membership and donations and several fundraising events were negatively impacted by inclement weather.
"We are seeking to raise significant dollars to meet current and future expenses," said Cris Adams, president of the Board of Trustees.
"Despite our financial crunch, we haven't stopped planning for the future," said Henry Ontiveros, board vice president. "Plant sales, festivals and even a Juried Bonsai Show and Exhibition are planned for 2014."
Since 2011, 25,000 people from eight countries and more than 30 states have visited Heathcote Botanical Gardens here in Fort Pierce. These visitors stay in local hotels, dine at local restaurants, and shop at local stores.
"The economic impact of Heathcote Botanical Gardens cannot be underestimated," said Mr. Ontiveros.
"Heathcote Botanical Gardens is entwined with the history and development of Fort Pierce and of St. Lucie County," said Mr. Adams. "It provides a sanctuary and a peaceful setting to counteract the stresses of the modern world. Don't let this green space turn to a cement-filled gray space."
Heathcote Botanical Gardens is a nonprofit organization that has been growing since 1986. In less than 30 years, it has grown from a nursery with a Japanese garden to a five-acre botanical garden with a world-class bonsai collection.
"Where else can you go on the Treasure Coast to get a close-up view of a fairy garden or walk through a rain forest?" said Mr. Adams.
Heathcote also serves as an outdoor classroom to photography students from Indian River State College, horticulture students from the University of Florida, and to more than 1,200 students from local elementary schools each year, who, in addition to learning about plants and eco-systems, receive a lesson on Florida history at the Adams/Peterson Pioneer Settlement.
Heathcote needs immediate contributions to keep their gates open and make their future plans a reality.
To make a tax deductible donation or to become a member or volunteer, call (772) 464-4672.
For more information, visit www.heathcotebotanicalgardens.org or stop by Heathcote Botanical Gardens at 210 Savannah Road, Fort Pierce, Florida 34982.