The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden opens to the public once again
After four months of being closed off to the public, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is finally welcoming back anyone and everyone to stroll through and enjoy California native plants and habitats.
Like many other similar facilities, the garden’s reopening is gradual. No on-site classes, tours, events or programs are being held, plus all indoor areas are closed besides restrooms.
Face masks are required at all times, and narrow trails meant for one person were turned into one-way paths.
In addition, as of right now, the garden is only allowing 80 people in at any given time. It’s a third of the normal population of guests.
“The entire reason that the garden exists is to serve the public and encourage them and inspire them to love California natives. We haven’t been able to do that for a while,” said Steve Windhager, the executive director of the garden. “It was really exciting to be able to open back up to the general public.”
He said the facility is a great place for residents and tourists alike to come get exercise, walk their pets and enjoy the weather even amid COVID-19. He added the shift to welcoming back the public has been “really rewarding to see.”
“Everyone was just so excited to be able to be in the garden, and to see the expressions of happiness, even if it was behind a mask …” Mr. Windhager said.
The garden was closed completely for two months, and then only open to members five days a week for the following two months to fine tune adjustments to the garden during COVID-19.
The park will be open seven days a week starting July 17. Mr. Windhager said they will be closed Wednesday and Thursday this week to get all the staff together before they return to being open every day.
Joseph Rothleutner, the director of horticulture and facilities at the garden, has been watering, weeding and mulching the plants all throughout the COVID-19 closures.
“The compliments that we’re receiving on how the garden’s looking are always refreshing, but how happy people are to be back in nature is inspiring and motivating for me and my team,” he said.
However, although humans weren’t able to enjoy the abundance of native plants and the redwood trees, animals were paying their visits. Mr. Rothleutner said he and his team saw bobcats, great blue herons and snakes roaming around during the COVID-19 closure.
“It’s a great place to be outdoors and to showcase the work that we put into it,” he said. “Spring is obviously a big time for us, so getting people in while we still have a bunch of our wildflowers blooming is really good.”
He added that while the retail nursery is still closed, the garden staff hopes to open it sometime in September for the fall planting season.
Jacob Jensen and his mother, Marcela Jensen, traveled up from around the Rancho Cucamonga area to observe and enjoy the Botanic Garden on Monday.
“Me and my mom both have a background in environmental science, so seeing this stuff is very informational. It’s a learning experience,” Mr. Jensen said. “Everything’s nice and lush; there’s nice vegetation growth. The people, the paths, it’s all very welcoming.”
For his mother, visiting the garden meant something a little different.
“For me, it’s just been tranquil, just to get away from it all. It’s just been so hectic,” Ms. Jensen said. “It’s nice to come to a place where you can just relax and not have to worry about anything.”
Joan Taylor, a member at the garden since last fall, was walking her two dogs, Lindy and Lulu, through the garden. She’s lived in Santa Barbara for four years.
“It’s a calming place to come to, and a place to not only enjoy nature, but think about things. You kind of put your mind on the things you don’t think about when you’re rushing around,” she said.
Ms. Taylor added that she believes the garden can be valuable for individuals during this time.
“My feeling is we have to do our due diligence and be patient,” she said, referring to the closures from COVID-19. “In today’s world, we’re so used to everything instantaneously happening, and when we’re faced with this kind of thing, it’s hard for people to be patient. This is one of the things that (the garden) does. Just be patient.”
This week, the Botanic Garden is open to guests Friday through Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Starting this Friday, July 17, it will be open to guests every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
No advance reservations are needed. Tickets for adults are $16; tickets for seniors (60+) are $12; students with ID are $10; youth (3-17) are $8; and admission is free for members and children 2 and under.