Keeping the Bok Tower Garden relevant and sustainable has led to a $12 million capital campaign. With $7.7 million already raised, the Bok Tower board members are taking the fundraising campaign to community to raise the remaining $4.3 million.
“We have been quietly fundraising for two years and are now inviting the community to participate,” said Bok Tower Gardens President David Price.
Several phases will incorporate the master plan created by the landscape firm of Nelson Byrd Woltz of Charlotte, Va., to begin this summer with an expected completion, barring any delays, in 18 months, Price said.
The landscape firm is known for its holistic design approach and working knowledge of Olmstead landscapes, of which Bok Tower Gardens is one.
Following a three-year process of surveys and study, the strategic, physical and landscape plans have been forthcoming. Discovering from the Rosen Survey from the University of Central Florida, taken of garden guests, those visiting want to discover, be educated and learn. The new garden phases will highlight rejuvenation of the historic core garden, improve accessibility, tell the gardens story (with new visitors’ center exhibits $2.1 million) and steward the gardens for future generations (new gardens $5.9 million). Included in that will be several new gardens and updated areas and venues for education and learning.
“The master plan tells who we are and what our strengths are,” Price said. “One aspect of who we are is agriculture. You drive through orange groves to get here. Over the years people have seen what we have done with our food plants. People are more interested in food, not only for health, but for food safety. That is a big issue with a lot of people.”
The Rosen Survey discovered young people and families with children are coming, but not staying. The young people, especially with families, were under served.
To solve this challenge, the master plan includes a children’s garden where children will learn through actual interaction with nature and play.
“We will use a venue of an education program, but they will be playing in nature,” Price said. “Art classes, botany classes for children, looking at insects, nature camps for children in the summer, outreach to the public schools, edible gardens, school groups being taught with the help of the University of Florida Extension Service and doing much more to educate are planned.”
Gardens will include a vegetable garden and a pollinating garden for birds and insects where there will be “lots and lots of flowers.”
“We’re looking to rejuvenate gardens in the area with native plants; on the sand hill area of two acres will be a meadow garden extension to the pine ridge preserve.” The Window by the Pond will be refurbished with the pond cleaned and the surround planted anew with natural Florida plants and highland hammock that Olmstead had in mind originally.
“It will be a recreation of the pond what Olmstead envisioned with bird feeders, bat houses, and all things to attract wildlife,” Price said.
Wet lands and water will go through an area with a board walk for visitors to stroll through that area, bordered by a boggy garden planted with carnivorous plants.
“This will be off the new main path out of the visitors’ center, adding a sense of function and where to go in the gardens,” Price said. “Now you don’t see it all because the original entrance to the gardens created by Olmstead (north of the carillon area) was changed when the parking lot was created in the 1930s. Now people park their cars and go right up to the singing tower and don’t ever see all the other phases of the garden.”
The new reshaped garden plan ($2.5 million and new garden access $1.5 million) will be handicapped accessible that will not only include the wide and well-graded paths paved to accommodate wheelchairs, but also accommodate children’s strollers. You will be able to take the new pathway around the pond north and walk all the way to the carillon tower.
A bit of maintenance will be performed including thinning old shrubs that are at their “end of life and some overgrown and get more diversity, more nature plants and grasses,” in the older parts of the garden,” Price said.
Construction is planned to begin the late summer to fall depending on permits and other necessary preparations.
“When working with the design firm it addresses the need for one primary path,” said Joan Thomas, Bok Tower Gardens director of development. “That is a more enriching experience when you can take a wider loop and you can embrace those areas of the garden to now have a complete story and ecosystem.”
“We have never had a fundraiser that is this large,” Thomas said. “The largest was when 14 years ago we built the visitors’ center.
“People do support us,” Thomas said. “I think the overall goal of all this is we are able to have a culture philanthropy. (Edward) Bok made provisions for an endowment but that can’t support something forever. You will have to adapt. People who like you will support you. Donors are stepping up. They will support you when you have the right plan.”
“This has been a three-year process defining what the future is going to look like for the gardens,” said Cindy Alexander, fundraising co-chair and vice chair of the Bok Tower Gardens board. “The people we have been courting have given in faith. Now we go from the quiet campaign raising the $7.7 million to announcing our capital campaign to raise the remaining funds.”
Plans for giving include awarding gifts of cash or securities that may be made outright or pledged up to a maximum of five years. Specific gift provisions through one’s estate for donors more than age 70 will qualify for campaign recognition. For more details about gift options, visit the Gardens’ campaign website at www.BokLegacy.org. Campaign staff may be reached at 863-734-1213.