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Parking fee to go up $3 at Botanic Garden
Forest District OKs increase to $15

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

The cost to park at the Chicago Botanic Garden will increase by $3 on April 1 although admission to the North Shore institution will remain free.

The Cook County Forest Preserve District, which owns the property, on Wednesday approved the increase to $15 from $12.
The increase is expected to generate more than $200,000 a year, said Barbara Whitney Carr, president and CEO of the garden, adding that it was necessary to meet rising expenses.

"We get an enormous amount of support from the many people out in Chicago, Cook County, the whole region, who love this garden," Carr said. "And yet, we can't exist simply through the good graces of the donors."

The Glencoe institution also receives $8.9 million annually from Cook County property taxpayers, roughly one-third of its $27.5 million budget. The Forest Preserve District has increased its contribution to the garden only one time in the last five years.

With the parking-fee increase, the cost to park will have nearly doubled since 2002, when the charge was $8. The cost for seniors to park on Tuesday will remain unchanged at $7, Carr said.

The garden is committed to keeping admission free despite rising costs that have forced staffing and program cuts in recent years, Carr said.

"We have made significant budget cuts in the last five years, as have virtually all of the museums in the City of Chicago," Carr said. "We've got one of the world's great botanic gardens right here in Chicago and our commitment is to keeping our public service top notch."

Also Wednesday, the Forest Preserve District board voted to allow the administration of board President Todd Stroger to negotiate with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority regarding a widening project on Interstate Highway 294.

The current proposal would allow the tollway to create bioswales on forest preserve land in the north suburbs. Bioswales are drainage areas that are wider than regular ditches and contain vegetation to slow the water and snag pollutants, especially road salt.

Environmentalists oppose the plan, saying the tollway should find a way to drain the interstate without interfering with forest preserve land.

Forest preserve officials say negotiating with the tollway at least gives them a voice in how the runoff is handled, and the use of bioswales will reduce the amount of pollutants dumped into the Des Plaines River.

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