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The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks came to be after years of planning, organizing, and fundraising by the Botanical Garden Society of the Ozarks, a homegrown, grassroots organization.

The Garden is supported by the Society, a non-profit membership organization that exists solely to support and promote the Garden. The support of our community and your membership in the Botanical Garden Society of the Ozarks helps to ensure that the Garden will thrive for years to come.

The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks has a unique history—unlike many public gardens, the gardens you see today are the result of a volunteer-led, grassroots effort.

The Botanical Garden Society of the Ozarks (BGSO) was incorporated in January 1994 as a non-profit organization. The founder and first Director was Donna Porter who worked tirelessly to see her vision materialize, serving on a volunteer basis from 1993 until 1997. Her paid Director’s position commenced in 1997 through a grant from The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust and continued until her departure in Dec of 2001. Donna’s contributions included: the origination and promotion of the idea of a Botanical Garden for Northwest Arkansas; the formation and development of the non-profit organization; site search; site acquisition through the signing of a 25 year land-lease agreement with the City of Fayetteville for 100 acres of city property on the south shore of Lake Fayetteville; and the initiation and completion of the Master Plan for the BGO, in conjunction with The Portico Group, Public Garden Design Specialists, of Seattle, Washington.

Donna’s pioneering contributions were recognized on May 10, 2008 with the opening and dedication of the Founder’s Garden and Fountain at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

Because of lack of funds, realization of the dream had to wait for Carl Totemeier, Vice President Emeritus of the New York Botanical Garden, who served as the Garden’s volunteer Director from the spring of 2001 until his death in 2004. Carl provided inspiration, valued experience and a clear roadmap for Garden construction and operation. The Master Plan was completed in October 2001, and in September 2003 the Fayetteville City Council approved the Plan and a revised lease agreement that permits the Botanical Garden to use the site for a minimum of 100 years.

Construction of a timber-framed horticulture center, named in honor of Carl Totemeier, began in 2003. In July 2004, the Fayetteville City Council approved a grant of $750,000 to be used to complete construction of the parking area.

There was one final obstacle to starting work on the garden—hiring someone to supervise the day-to-day operations and construction of the gardens. Ed Clement, a friend of the Garden, rose to the challenge and offered to pay the first year’s salary of the Garden’s first Director of Operations. Scott Starr was hired in June 2005.

Other grants and donations from regional donors supported early construction and operations. In 2005, a grant from the Arkansas Forestry Commission supported hydrological studies and development of a plan for stream and riparian zone restoration, and in 2006 a grant from the State Outdoor Recreation Program was designated by the City for Garden construction. Other major donors prior to 2007 included Tyson Foods, Inc., the Tyson Family Foundation, Barbara Tyson, Ed Clement, the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, Wal-Mart/SAM’S Foundation, and the Arkansas State Legislature. Other donors provided funds for theme garden construction.

The Carl A. Totemeier Horticulture Center and Phase 1 gardens were dedicated October 6, 2006 with retired U. S. Senator Dale Bumpers providing the keynote address.

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The American Horticultural Society's Reciprocal Admission Program offers free admission and/or additional benefits at 300 gardens throughout North America and the Cayman Islands. You can reference the AHS website here.

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