GEELONG’S Botanic Gardens need a better visitor precinct to service and capitalise on the 120,000 people who arrive there each year, according to City Hall.
The gardens were limited in their ability to cater for weddings, group bookings, regular tour itineraries and cruise ship visits due to poor toilet facilities, a lack of a well-appointed cafe and properly-designed visitor precinct, Cr Lindsay Ellis said.
Cr Ellis, who holds the city’s portfolio for infrastructure, parks and gardens, described the botanic gardens as “an absolute jewel” but said their potential was limited in an update to the city council on its Geelong Botanic Gardens and Eastern Park Strategic Plan.
“By visitor precinct we mean a ‘front of house’ and entrance for the Gardens that people can easily identify and that has better connections to the waterfront and Central Geelong,” he said.
“The visitor precinct would provide a sense of place as well as acting as a community hub and centre of education and community engagement.
“We need a visitor precinct that is welcoming but we also need permanent toilets and an improved café that meets the understandably high expectations of visitors to a well-known regional Botanic Gardens.
“Let’s face it, the current port-a-loo arrangement and portable buildings are not in keeping with the stature of the Geelong Botanic Gardens and seriously limit our ability to increase visitor numbers and the type of education and community programs that can be offered.
“We’re hoping our bid for $120,000 in next year’s budget will be successful to allow the proper concept design of a visitor precinct.”
A report to council this week stated the gardens’ popular teahouse would have a new lessee in place this month.
The Geelong Botanic Gardens are the third oldest botanic gardens in the country (gazetted in 1851).
They are highly regarded for their plant collections displayed in heritage and contemporary landscapes.
The Geelong Botanic Gardens’ public programs connect people to the world of plants through education programs for primary and secondary students, school holiday programs and themed interpretive programs.