News 12 First at Five, June 22, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga---In just over a week, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens is set to close. Hall of Fame board members made that decision several weeks ago, but Augusta city leaders are determined to keep the tourist attraction open.
Donna Lentz and her husband took advantage of a fleeting photo opportunity today. It was their first trip to the botanical gardens and it may be their last.
"I wanted to at least see it and experience it. I love flowers," Lentz says.
The gates to the botanical gardens are set to close for good next Saturday. Marketing director Robin Jarrett says they've struggled financially for more than a year, and now, with Governor Perdue's budget veto, this is the end.
"The reality is, we are eight days away from closing, so I'm afraid in this short amount of time, a lot has to be accomplished," Jarrett says.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver says it can be done. Right now he is working on a committee with state lawmakers and other leaders to quickly save the tourist attraction.
"We're looking at fundraising, we are looking at different organizations who have stepped up to the plate that are volunteering to help with the maintenance and upkeep," the mayor says.
Copenhaver says he's also calling state leaders to see if inmate crews can help maintain the landscaping. Jarrett says that may help, but says to properly maintain the gardens, it will cost $500,000 each year.
"Without that specialized care, the gardens will not survive," she told us.
The mayor says he believes raising $65,000 would be enough to keep the gardens open temporarily. He says the city pulled off the elaborate funeral for James Brown in just a couple of days and this too can be done.
"We can do this. I know we can," Copenhaver says.
Even if the money is raised before next week, the final decision as to whether the gardens stay open lies with the Hall of Fame's board of directors.