The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens announced Tuesday it will reopen to the public on July 15, with early access to members on July 8. A press release noted staffers can’t wait to be #BackUnderTheDome.
“The COVID-19 health crisis is rapidly evolving and the health and safety of all visitors, staff, volunteers and the extended community is extremely important,” it continued.
President/CEO David Swarts said, “Public gardens are indispensable to community healing, offering much-needed places for respite and connection with nature. The loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 situation is devastating and, with 94% of our budget coming from membership, admission and fundraising efforts, the community’s support of the Botanical Gardens is important now more than ever.”
A task force, comprised of a cross-section of staff members, was created to develop a plan to reopen the Botanical Gardens in the safest way possible. The comprehensive reopening plan and sanitization strategies are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The venue said:
Cleaning and sanitizing are a top priority and, with the recommendations provided by the CDC, the Botanical Gardens has created a high standard of cleaning and disinfecting on its campus to ensure everyone is safe. Touchable surfaces, with particular attention given to high-touch areas, will be cleaned and sanitized with a CDC-approved cleaner/disinfectant several times per day, including but not limited to: before the Botanical Gardens opens to the public, at midday and at the close of business. Touchless hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed throughout the Botanical Gardens and signage will be placed throughout to remind visitors to wash their hands often, use the sanitizer dispensers, avoid touching surfaces and plants, wear face coverings and maintain safe social distancing.
To provide an orderly transition while maintaining safety, the Botanical Gardens’ transparent and flexible reopening plan is organized into three phases: phase one: initial, many restrictions; phase two: modified, some restrictions lifted; phase three: new normal operations.
At this point, phase one is planned to run for four weeks. Phase one, week one, will take place July 8-12 and will welcome current Botanical Gardens members to visit with reserved, timed e-tickets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, with early access to high-risk members from 10-11 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.
Phase one, week two will welcome the public back to the Botanical Gardens with pre-purchased, timed e-tickets and will follow the same open scheduled hours as week one. Phase one, weeks three through four, will follow the same hours of operation as weeks one and two; however, timed admission tickets are available at the door if capacity has not been reached at the time of purchase.
For everyone's safety, visitors and staff must follow the Botanical Gardens’ safety etiquette guidelines. Individuals not following these guidelines will be asked to leave the Botanical Gardens in accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York state executive order.
Visitors must wear face coverings at all times when inside all Botanical Gardens’ buildings and when safe social distancing cannot be maintained outside. Children ages 2 and under are not required to wear a face covering. Visitors are required to wash their hands and utilize hand sanitizing stations. Maintaining 6-foot social distancing from others is also required and visitors are asked to follow a one directional path through the Botanical Gardens and limit touch of all surfaces and plants.
Amenity restrictions included in phase one will include but are not limited to: online, pre-purchased e-tickets will be required for the first two weeks of phase one and are recommended for the foreseeable future. The following amenities will be closed during phase one: the rear entrance, the Wegmans Family Garden, the outdoor children’s garden, the drinking fountain (visitors are encouraged to bring their own water in a reusable container) and the gift shop will be closed for only week one. The following amenities will be unavailable in phase one: wheelchair borrowing, audio tours and coat racks. There will be limited indoor seating and congregating should be avoided.
Extra precautions include: partitions as a barrier between visitors and staff have been installed at the admission counters and in the gift shop; brochures and literature were removed from the admission areas to limit touching. Every other sink and stall in the restrooms will be closed and some tables and chairs will be removed from inside the conservatory. Only one entrance and exit, the front entrance, will be designated for public use, and brightly colored markers will indicate safe social distancing when arriving at the admission desk. Brightly colored markers were also installed to establish a set, one-way direction of foot traffic through the Botanical Gardens for visitors to follow. Signage was also installed to remind visitors of the safety etiquette guidelines.
The leadership and staff at the Botanical Gardens is monitoring the situation closely and following the recommendations and guidelines set forth by New York state and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). They have also made a pledge to the “Buffalo Cares: Stay Safe Pledge” through Visit Buffalo Niagara. It is a shared commitment between local hospitality and tourism organizations to take precautions to keep everyone safe.
The Botanical Gardens will continue to prioritize the safety of all visitors, staff and volunteers throughout the reopening process and will continue to provide public updates as the situation changes. More information regarding phase two and phase three of its plan can be found at buffalogardens.com.
Proceeds benefit the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to inspire curiosity and connect people to the natural world through the historic living museum.