Beloved central Ohio arboretum no longer free to visit

For the first time in nearly 90 years, The Dawes Arboretum will begin charging admission in Spring 2019—a change that has garnered some mixed reactions.

Executive Director Luke Messinger says this is a necessary action.

“This is an important step for The Arboretum, because it will increase our ability to impact even more people with our mission,” wrote Messinger in a release. “It will also provide the stability necessary to manage our plant collections, gardens and natural areas at an appropriate level for current visitors and future generations.”

The arboretum will charge a $10 entrance fee for adults and a $5 entrance fee for children age five and older.

Family memberships are $60 per year and individual memberships will start at $40.

Access to the Dutch Fork Wetlands and the Red Barn Preserve will remain free of charge.


Some of the opportunities the arboretum staff are discussing include:

  • Senior discounts on admission and membership
  • Licking County resident discount days
  • First Tuesdays
  • SNAP discount
  • Active military discount
  • Family Passes
  • Senior Days with associated programming
  • Free admission for senior center tour buses
  • Family days with educational programming

Charles Dawes, 69, a grandson of the arboretum’s founders, told The Dispatch he disagrees with the idea to charge admission because it directly conflicts the founding principles of his grandparents.

He said he understands the arboretum is facing financial hardships but believes that since they’re not at the point of needing to close their doors, other options should be considered before imposing an entry fee.

The Dawes Arboretum is holding an open house meeting on October 11 at 6pm or November 3 at 10am to further discuss this change and opportunities for access.


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