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Stick to gardening 

San Luis Obispo

The hoo-hah over the SLO Botanical Garden is turning into some good hah-hah. First, New Times prints a thoughtful critique suggesting the garden’s conceived as another Highway 1 tourist trap, not a community resource (“Beware the dazzling plan,” Sept. 10). Then the garden’s head of development attacks the writer, “setting the record straight” with details confirming the tourist trap vision (“Botanical Garden won’t be Disneyland,” Sept. 17).

Then a letter appears stating the writer, a frequent user of the county park the garden occupies, couldn’t enter the park despite having purchased an annual pass because the garden demanded $25 to get in (“Goodbye, park,” Oct. 1). The writer said he’d been a garden supporter, but was reconsidering. So the garden’s volunteer coordinator writes a snippy letter to the editor demanding to know the nature of the writer’s support because “I have never met him!” (“Check out the garden,” Oct. 15).

Some thoughts:
1. The garden people seem to forget they are a private entity using public land, and thus the public has every right—indeed, the responsibility—to question what they’re doing with it.
2. The garden people seem uninterested to discover not everyone shares their particular top-down vision of what’s good for SLO, and that public debate about the garden’s vision is thus very much in order.
3. Their rude attacks on anyone who dares criticize them suggest deep insincerity and insecurity about their goals and claims to be “sustainable” and “world class”; meaningless words the insecure toss out to hide nagging pangs of real-time mediocrity.
4. The garden’s performance to date is a highly suspicious indicator of priorities: millions spent to build facilities they can rent out for parties (see their website), but in 20 years have only produced a piddly two acres of garden plantings.


And they want another $60 million on a “just trust us” basis? It appears there’s a lot about the Botanical Garden worth talking about.

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