Audit reveals concerns over Boerner Botanical Gardens' "tired, weak" appearance & profitability

HALES CORNERS -- Summer is the perfect time of year to visit the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee County, but while parts of the garden are flourishing, other parts are in need of serious attention.

The Boerner Botanical Gardens have been around since the early 1900s. A recent audit of the gardens has revealed some concerns.

There's plenty to admire at the Boerner Botanical Gardens.

Boerner Botanical Gardens

"It's kind of a way to get away from the real world," Susie Devcich with Milwaukee County Parks said.

But some of the garden's long-time visitors say its bloom has been fading in recent years.

"We need to make sure we're providing the public what they expect," Devcich said.

Boerner Botanical Gardens

Milwaukee County Parks officials say they welcomed a recent audit of the garden, and the audit's recommendations to improve the garden's "tired and weak" appearance and its profitability.

"We are very dependent on outside -- we are very dependent upon donations and a lot of volunteers," Devcich said.

The 40-acre garden has struggled to flourish in response to budget cuts. Those cuts are reflected in seasonal staff hours which have declined from about 27,000 in 2003 to about 7,000 in 2014.

Boerner Botanical Gardens

"This is something that Milwaukee should try to maintain. It's a positive thing," Viola Hazley-Williams said.

Hazley-Williams has been visiting the Boerner Botanical Gardens for 40 years.

"Awhile back they had more staff people in there," Hazley-Williams said.

Hazley-Williams still loves the garden, but has noticed the care for plants and their labeling could be improved.

Boerner Botanical Gardens

"If you're going to perpetuate something, let this be it," Hazley-Williams said.

More comprehensive signage and labeling are among the audit's recommendations, along with an internship program to help with its labor shortage.

The garden's regular visitors are hopeful it still has many sunny days ahead.

"I like the idea that we have a place where people can come for little or nothing and see all the different types of things that can grow," Hazley-Williams said.

There's also the matter of Boerner Botanical Gardens paying its bills.

Friends of the Boerner Botanical Gardens have been able to pay off the construction of a new visitor center. However, recently, it hasn't been able to make its rent payments to Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County Parks officials say there's likely a big push coming for more volunteers and interns to help with the workload.

Boerner Botanical Gardens

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