In just a few years, the Monk Botanical Gardens has grown into an exciting community attraction. This year (2018) marks 15 years since the Monk Botanical Gardens was donated by Robert W. Monk. Community volunteers and investors have been building and growing the garden ever since. Today, the Monk Botanical Gardens occupies a 30-acre property on the West Side of Wausau, Wisconsin, at 1800 N. First Ave.
In 2003, the garden achieved a non-profit status and has built a solid reputation for delivering on its commitment to provide a premier garden focused on education. The mission statement defined by this plan is consistent with the garden’s beginning and states that the Garden is seeking to be a premier botanical garden, providing opportunities to experience plants and understand their significance.
Volunteers and donors have created a one-of-a-kind environment where all have opportunities to visit and enjoy the beauty of the unique gardens which have become an urban sanctuary for education, appreciation of our environment, relaxation and recreation. One visitor on Facebook recently wrote, “What an absolutely awesome place…a magical escape into nature…”.
Visitors to the Gardens are now able to relax in the contemplative environment of the Memory Garden and Memorial Plaza, climb the magnificent Treehouse, bring lunch and enjoy it under the roof at the “Potager” pavilion in the Kitchen Garden, view unusual plantings in the Meditation Garden, and explore the foot trails that wind through the fields and woods, and border the pond.
These features are just the start of what the vision is for development of the garden. Already thousands of children, students, and adults currently participate in programs and events all year long. The Gardens are an official Monarch butterfly, chimney swift and geocaching site and a member of the American Public Gardens Association.
Planning and the Commitment for Growth and Expansion
To accomplish the progress to date, 13 years ago, a master plan and a strategic plan were developed. In 2018 we estimate that over 12,000 people visited the garden and that 6,500 attended programming at the garden. We expect in 2019 to see a 20% growth in visitors as our reputation grows.
This 2018 planning process and the report represent the next steps in the journey of growth for the gardens. The direction set quantifies what we aim to achieve, and the value of our role in the community.
During this planning process, more than 2700 people from the database were emailed a questionnaire and asked to complete a survey. The result was a 16.6 % response rate, or 461 individuals provided input by responding to the survey. This planning process was based on using constituent feedback, understanding where we’ve come from, assessing trends in the environment and in our community to determine the next steps for the Gardens. Included, as part of the process and in this report, is a new a modified vision and mission, and the development of values, goals, objectives and strategies that will help the organization make continued progress to achieving our vision and mission.
Delivering on this plan will require the strong dedication and commitment of volunteer and staff leaders. Key to our success will be to create increased awareness of the value of the gardens and connecting with our visitors, investors, and other groups within the community. For a newer organization, looking to create sustainable funding sources makes implementing this plan a challenge. The steps outlined here will help develop the support needed to grow and expand the opportunities provided at the gardens.
The Gardens values its engagement with community groups as partners and has a strong desire to offer those groups opportunities to use the gardens, attend programs or develop programs that meet their needs and our mission. It is a win/win situation for the community when organizations collaborate and coordinate programs with other groups, educational institutions, and public entities.
In developing the plan, we recognize that today’s political climate regarding environmental education struggles for public funding. At the same time, we also see this as an opportunity. Our community wants to be more connected with the natural world, as we assess this through the strong farm to table movement, the embracing of outdoor activities such as whitewater kayaking, cross country skiing and hiking, as well as the need to find ways to improve our physical and mental health. The Gardens will play an essential role in connecting our community with plants through exploration of themed gardens and a variety of mission focused educational programs and events. We also recognize that in order to make change in our community, we must provide all children with access and space to explore and discover the natural world around them. Providing engaging environmental educational programs will connect children with nature and plants and provide the foundation to develop them into informed citizens that care for their environment and natural resources. Our role in increasing awareness of the environment and the role of plants will help our community to build a sustainable future.
People value the outdoors and nature, but are also living in more urban settings, are more plugged into electronics, the web and work life. With more living in apartments closer to work the opportunity to have a natural garden in an urban center provides people with a tranquil setting, and opportunities to become connected to plants and gardening. These opportunities also lead to improved physical and mental health which is an identified need in the annual Life in Marathon County Report.
The garden serves our community but is also working to become a destination for people throughout the region and the state. Visitors’ dollars enhance the area’s economy and make our community a more appealing place to live and visit. Tremendous progress has been made toward this ambitious goal. There is a dedicated staff and an outstanding volunteer group. The Board hired its first Executive Director, Darcie Howard in August 2017, and has three part time staff members; a half time Education Coordinator, a bookkeeper and a seasonal Grounds Supervisor. This equates to 1.6 full time equivalent staff.
The Board and staff are committed to further growing and developing the site to provide a unique premier botanical garden in the region and state. In doing so, we are challenged to balance the use of resources for development of the site, while still moving forward on the mission and journey to grow the programming and its value.
We invite you to participate in our efforts through a myriad of engagement opportunities such as becoming a member and donating-supporting the physical development and growth, volunteering and helping to shape our programs and development, talking about the wonderful experiences you have had at the Gardens and what makes it a special place to you and just visiting the gardens and enjoying the beautiful, engaging and peaceful atmosphere.
With your help we will be able to accomplish the following established goals for 2019-2023:
1. Offer Programming that increases our awareness of the importance of plants.
2. Expand Gardens, Facilities and Site Development.
3. Increase Financial Resources.
4. Create top of Mind Awareness to increase visitors and the use of the Gardens.
5. Excel at Governance and operations.
I look forward to working with all of you to make our vision a reality.
See you in the Gardens,
Want to read our entire strategic plan? Click here.