VanDusen Botanical Garden Association willing to assist Bloedel Conservatory

The VanDusen Botanical Garden Association wants to help run Queen Elizabeth Park’s Bloedel Conservatory.

According to association president Henry Hawthorn, his group is interested in partnering with the park board in the same way that it jointly operates the VanDusen Botanical Garden together with the board.

“Our mandate is to support the activities of the garden,” Hawthorn told the Straight. “We would see ourselves possibly fulfilling exactly the same purpose with the Bloedel Conservatory, basically acting to support the park-board operations.”

In a 4-3 vote on November 25 of last year, Vision Vancouver commissioners decided to close the conservatory as part of measures to deal with a $2.8-million projected shortfall in the city’s 2010 budget. Following a public outcry, the board backpedalled and sought expressions of interest for business plans for the future use of the iconic Vancouver attraction. Interested parties have until April 30 to make their submissions.

Staff previously reported to the board that the conservatory is receiving about $250,000 a year in subsidies due to reduced attendance as well as increasing maintenance and utility costs.

Hawthorn pointed out that the conservatory has historically not been a money loser. He explained that before the construction of the nearby Canada Line; the rebuilding of the reservoir, which took away parking for tour buses for a number of years; and the 1997 civic strike, which occurred during tourist season, the Bloedel was operating in the black.

The conservatory had also previously caught the interest of the operators of Vancouver’s TELUS Word of Science. But because of an ongoing major capital fundraising project, Science World British Columbia is not submitting a proposal to the park board. However, group president and CEO Bryan Tisdall told the Straight that his association is willing to assist any organization that may end up running the Bloedel.