City plans admission fee for Volunteer Park Conservatory – Plus, park nominated as official landmark

22720026, originally uploaded by kairuy.

The dahlias on bloom in Volunteer Park? Those are free to enjoy. Today, a visit to the Volunteer Park Conservatory is, too.

But a plan being considered by Seattle Parks is likely to change that as the City of Seattle looks for ways to move the facility toward a more self-sufficient fture.

In a briefing to the City Council at Tuesday’s hearing on Seattle’s 2012 budget proposal, Parks head Christopher Williams said his department is spending $50,000 to hire a consultant to look at plans for the Conservatory to “operate with a lower level of general fund support.”

The 2012 budget line items call for the facility to have $159,000 in Conservatory funding “redirected” to Parks general fund support.

During the briefing, Williams said the study will look at the feasibility of the conservatory being able to operate with lower level of general fund support. The goal, he said, may not be 100% self-sufficient — “but maybe 40, 50 or 60%.”

The parks superintendent said the consultant will look at the capital development needs for the conservatory. “We need a model that provides the conservatory with a pathway to generating revenue,” Williams said.

Currently, visitors are asked to donate when they visit the conservatory. “What are the elasticity of fees?” Williams asked, citing examples of other facilities like Chicago’s Garfield Conservatory that is also used as a “civic gathering place” and rented out for events and weddings.

In the meantime, the facility’s volunteer supporters say the conservatory needs millions in work to preserve the historic asset. As the park is approaching its 100 year anniversary, the Friends of the Volunteer Park conservatory are in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $3.5 million for the facility.

Williams said the plan is to have a proposal for the changes to the Conservatory on the mayor’s desk by spring.

Landmark nomination for Volunteer Park goes forward
Meanwhile, there is good news for supporters of the effort to designate Volunteer Park as an official Seattle landmark and afford it with greater protection from changes that could be brought about from nearby development or the eventual capping of the reservoir inside the park’s bounds. 

Last week, The Landmarks Board unanimously approved the nomination of Volunteer Park prepared by the group Friends of Seattle’s Olmstead Parks. The board’s designation meeting is scheduled for November 2. The Friends group asks anybody who would like to support the landmark designation to write to the board — you can email your letter to

The designation could also provide another set of factors to contend with as plans are baked for a $800,000 overhaul of the park’s playground.

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7 thoughts on “City plans admission fee for Volunteer Park Conservatory – Plus, park nominated as official landmark

  1. So the parks dept is spending $50,000.00 – when they are broke – to try to figure out how not to spend 159,000 which is already budgeted away from the conservatory.

    Is there any logic to this?

    I love the conservatory as do tens of thousand of Seattle folks. It is a treasure. I think C. Hill residents need to draw a line in the sand on this one.

    Start a 3.00 fee at once – easy – not to high – kids and seniors cheaper.

    Then, next….. maybe a trust fund endowment for the facility. Long overdue. Bill Gates et al, where are you?

    I will send my $250.00, you bet.


  2. this is so dumb. attendance will drop outrageously if a fee is required.

    the idea of adding the payment process will destroy this awesome place.

    NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

    this is about as good idea as $4 parking.

  3. $50,000 for a consultant, REALLY??? Here’s the solution, for $0:
    If the fee must be implemented, start at $2, and raise if needed. This will be least onerous, and generate maximum “fee’d” attendance.
    There’s your perfect solution, delivered immediately. Take the $50,000 and invest in the Conservatory, where it’s NEEDED!
    Hiring consultants for elementary tasks is simply buying a curtain for decision-phobic people to hide behind. This isn’t rocket science!

  4. $50,000 for a consultant, plus, of course we still have the 2nd highest paid city council in the US, plus, of course, 25% of city employees make more than $100K a year. OK, if we charge $5 per visitor, after 10,000 visitors, we’ll have paid for the consultant, of course, with attendance down due to the fee, it’ll take a while. Meanwhile, our taxes go up in a recession so our political fat cats and well paid consultants can live it up. I used to think we had a decently governed city, but it’s obvious now that it was only because Seattle was wealthy, covering up the wastefulness and greediness of our political “leaders” What a crew! So long as they take home big salaries and their friends take home big consulting fees, what do they care about making a liveable city or providing amenities to the citizens? Our role is to pay taxes and hey, some pretty hefty tolls on the multi-billion dollar tunnel that we need more than education or health care, right?

  5. What nonsense,

    Charging to see that wonderful, yet sad display? No one will pay to do that. What dimwit came up with that idea?
    If money was spent on people with imagination, you might have a solution.

    Check out the bee pollination activists for some ideas.

  6. How many tourists come thousands of miles to see the conservatory? Not many, and it would take years to make back the money spent on a stupid consultant. Fire the consultant, fire the idiot who hired the consultant, and call Bill Gates and ask for the change from his couch to cover the $109,000 deficit.

    Or, allow sponsorship, hell, everything else in town is sponsored by something. Buses sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority when its freezing outside, CenturyLink Field, Key Arena, why not The Volunteer Park Conservatory, brought to you by Amazon? Has a certain ring to it! Jeff Bozo, cough up the damn money.