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CAN (ON): Royal Botanical Gardens presents master planning initiative

Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) together with primary consultant MT Planners, shared new developments of its 25-year master planning initiative as part of the Seeding our Future Public Open House. RBG’s impact and value to southern Ontario was made clear along with the critical role RBG plays in addressing the environmental pressures facing the region.

As a core environmental system within the fastest growing region in Canada, RBG’s 2,700 acres of environmentally sensitive areas (including nature sanctuaries, cultivated gardens and an arboretum), make up the last ecological corridor between Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment and contain biologically diverse Carolinian Forest that is home to the highest concentration of wild plants in the country—20% of Canada’s wild plant population—as well as 58 species-at-risk. These areas are threatened with potentially devastating habitat loss stemming from environmental factors that include climate change and urbanization.

“While RBG serves as a significant tourist and cultural destination, and the need to achieve financial sustainability is clear, our intrinsic value is to affect real and positive change in how humanity interacts with our environment,” said CEO Mark Runciman. “We have pledged to take full advantage of our resources, knowledge and reputation in order to achieve our vision”.

The plan will define RBG’s diverse geographic impact as:

  • a community hub and daily centre for immersion and refuge in nature, educating the local community to develop daily practices that benefit the health of people and local ecologies
  • a regional resource and tool for action and partnerships to protect and enhance natural systems
  • a provincial partner with institutions, agencies, organizations and businesses to create collaborative offerings, attractions and educational programming for Ontarians and tourists
  • a national laboratory for ecological research
  • an informed global citizen that responds to challenges with science-based input to drive global initiatives for a better future for our planet.

The plan’s framework has been developed through an extensive company-assessment and benchmarking exercise that includes case studies on trending product, programming, natural systems and infrastructure development. Key areas of aspiration have been identified to build the financial strength to serve RBG’s future, including enhanced programming, infrastructure and amenities to attract diverse audiences from local, national and international markets.

A “new” Royal Botanical Gardens would connect its diverse properties to create a unique set of destinations and new experiences that connect visitors to all green spaces. RBG revealed very early design concepts of several potential long-term projects aimed to transform the Gardens into a world-leading tourist, conservation and environmental education destination, some of which include:

  • A reimagined Arboretum serving as the gravitational centre of RBG, connecting more people to its natural lands
  • A wellness retreat
  • A new Hendrie Park and RBG Centre featuring world-class horticultural attractions, a conservatory, amphitheatre and special facility for senior’s programming
  • An escarpment retreat
  • A rejuvenated Laking Garden
  • New community hub featuring such amenities as community gardens, farmer’s market, and community centre.
  • A Trail System Master Plan that includes upgrades to improve accessibility, elevated trails, canopy experiences, lookouts, and connection to the larger national trail system.
  • Comprehensive transportation plan connecting all points throughout RBG
  • Accessibility integration, property wide.

“The opportunity to transform, not only RBG, but make significant positive change in our community, region and beyond is truly inspiring,” said Runciman. “To make these ambitious goals a reality, RBG will be launching a major capital fundraising campaign.The implementation of the plan will involve input from all stakeholders in determining the future direction of RBG and deepen partnerships with municipalities, conservation authorities, commissions, and other provincial institutions.”

The completed plan will identify short-term capital projects to be addressed in the next five years as well as the longer-term projects for the next 25 years while imagining RBG’s role as an environmental steward for several generations. The plan will be completed at the end of February 2020 and approved by RBG’s board of directors in mid-March 2020. The project is managed by Colliers Project Leaders. The Master Plan is being developed by a team of consultants led by the Primary Consultant, MT Planners.

For more information:
Royal Botanical Gardens

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