Augusta Botanical Gardens grand opening

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News 12 at six o'clock, January 04, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---It's being called Augusta's own Central Park...on a smaller scale. Augusta's Botanical Gardens will re-open Saturday.

Five years ago today, Heather Meadows was married in the Augusta Botanical Gardens. She says her heart dropped after the governor cut the budget forcing the park to close. "I was afraid that it wasn't going to ever be open again. When they first closed it I came out here that last day and took as many pictures as possible, because I wanted to be able to come back to where I got married."

6 months later, in the grip of winter, the brush is being cleared and workers are even out painting some of the grass green as a golf tribute. They are readying the park for people again.

"It's definitely a hidden treasure," says park manager Darrell Bennett. "Most people have seen the wall but they haven't seen what's behind the wall so this is a chance to see what's behind the mysterious wall."

It is free to the public: a picnic by the lake, walking the dog, even exercise; moreover, what used to be $500 to rent is now $350.

"I paid 500 dollars [but] they gave me a picture frame." Heather says it was well worth the green. "Oh yeah, absolutely. I'm very happy that I got married here. I can't imagine I'd have gotten married anywhere else."

These days it's the city spending money on the park. The city is budgeting $65,000 for maintenance and upkeep.

Chris McCormick, a local businessman, is ahead of the game. He volunteered his time to get the park's waterfall flowing. "I saw it on T.V. and thought they needed a little bit of help and thought we'd give a little back too."

Giving a little goes a long way. The Augusta Botanical Gardens re-opens this weekend. Heather says the timing couldn't be better. "It's really good news...It's like an anniversary present."

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