Japanese Garden under new management

The Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity Committee heard a proposal today to change the way the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum is managed.  The Parks Department presented their plan for transitioning several aspects of the garden’s management to the Arboretum Foundation.

The Parks Department will still take care of major operations, including groundskeeping and buildings.  The Arboretum Foundation assumes responsibility for events, fundraising, membership, volunteer coordination, branding and marketing.

The Arboretum Foundation already has this role for the rest of the Arboretum. The Foundation, the Parks Department, the Japanese Garden Advisory Council, and the group that manages the tea ceremonies in the garden are all in favor of the proposal.

The Arboretum Foundation will be adding new members to their board to ensure that the interests of the community are represented with regard to the Japanese Garden. They will also be setting up a new committee (with about a dozen members) to oversee their Japanese Garden responsibilities.  The Arboretum Foundation has 600 volunteers.

The exact terms of the agreement are still being hammered out, but the term sheet is here. In a nutshell, the Parks Department pays the Arboretum Foundation $65,000 the first year for transition costs, and then the  Parks Department keeps $280,000 and a share of revenues annually to cover the groundskeeping and building maintenance while the Arboretum Foundation receives the balance annual revenues (i.e. gate admission fees).

There was some discussion of a long-term plan to put the entire operation of the Japanese Garden under the auspices of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, following the same model as the Woodland Park Zoo.

Council member Harrell abstained from the committee vote because he felt that he didn’t know enough about the other options that the Parks Department considered. Committee chair Godden and Council member Rasmussen both voted to approve the agreement framework and term sheet and forward it to the full Council for approval.