Friday, May 8, 2009

News from the Botanic Garden

[Note: Captain Haley is a member of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.]

The LA Times reports the loss of the Gane House, a Craftsman-style house that has been owned by the Garden for many years. The Garden had hoped to one day restore the house and use it as an administrative center. Tools, books, garden equipment, and office computers were also lost. The main lath house used for propagation was destroyed, and another house occupied by the Garden's Director. The extent to which the plant collection has been damaged is undetermined at this time.

The Garden had been in the midst of great political upheaval. They had terminated eight long-time employees including Carol Bornstein, who is widely regarded as the foremost expert in our local plant culture, and they had asked volunteers to step in to do these people's work. Many of the volunteers had responded by calling for a 30-day moratorium on all work, and for an opportunity to meet with the Board of Directors. The Garden's Board has been remarkably secretive and standoffish through all of this...particularly strange behavior for people running a non-profit that depends on community support. Although they fired eight productive personnel, they kept on three top-level management people including the Director ($214,000 salary plus living quarters) and the two Vice Presidents of Finance and Marketing...the three together ate up nearly 25% of the Garden's entire personnel budget.

Personally I hope that the Garden siezes this moment to change its focus. They should rehire Bornstein and the other plant people in order to concentrate on restoring the plant collection. The top three administrators should either be replaced or agree to accept salary cuts -- in my opinion no non-profit should be paying more than $85,000 to any administrator. If they wanted to ask volunteers to perform some of those peoples' work I would be all for it. I have some background in graphic design and layout and would be glad to take on some of Nancy Johnson's work to help out here.

Fire is a regular part of the local ecology, and we can hope that with proper care the plants will recover. Let's hope the Garden can recover as well.

Edit: The following was posted on EdHat:

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden announced today that as of 9 am, May 8, 2009, it has sustained further damage to structures and the living collection.

Fire officials accompanied Botanic Garden President Dr. Edward Schneider through the Garden, allowing him to assess the buildings and grounds. "The good news is that the Meadow, Discovery Garden, Teahouse, Desert and most of the Redwood Exhibits are untouched," said Dr. Schneider. "Unfortunately, the historic Campbell Bridge, the beloved Pritchett Path, the popular Redwood Tree Ring Exhibit, Oak Woodland and Porter Path Exhibits were either destroyed or heavily damaged." Further damage was also sustained in the riparian corridor canyon as the fire spread from Tunnel Road down to Mission Creek.

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