Owner of the Ventnor Botanic Garden, John Curtis, sent an email this morning to Friends and Volunteers of the Garden following media interest in “funding rumours”.
The email reveals that the CIC is a long way from being financially sustainable, with the Garden attracting around 40-50,000 visitors last year.
Curtis: No “infinite appetite to fund losses”
When he signed the 125 year lease for the Ventnor Botanic Garden in July 2012, many Islanders hailed American businessman John Curtis as a saviour and philanthropist for ‘rescuing the garden’.
In his email this morning, he states to Friends and Volunteers of the VBG that he does, “not have an infinite appetite to fund losses at the Garden”.
Curtis: “Disappointed with persistent trespassing”
During a public meeting held in early 2012, before John Curtis signed the deal with the Isle of Wight council, OnTheWight reported,
[John Curtis advised] No fencing would be placed around the Garden and it would not be policed, with 5-8% ‘revenue leakage’ (ie. people going in without paying) being expected each year.
Almost two years later, in his email this morning, John is now saying he’s, “very disappointed at the persistent trespassing by local residents who enter the Garden without paying” and adding that, “We are being forced to install fences, not our preferred strategy.”
“Funding rumours”: Match funding needed
It was revealed the “funding rumours” that have been circulating in the community relate to a ‘multi-million pound grant’ being sought by the CIC from the Heritage Lottery Fund or ‘other philanthropic institutions’.
John points out that any grant would require 15-20% matching funding, suggesting the ‘financial resources of the Friends should grow accordingly’.
John finishes his email by saying,
“I have no idea how my comments will be reported and I wanted you to understand my point of view directly.”
He goes on to say,
“Many of you will remember when I offered to donate our playground to the Town of Ventnor so it would be of more use to the local children and the headline read, ‘American businessman to close playground’.”
John is perhaps mis-remembering the reporting of comments he made in a Ventnor Town council meeting on 10th December 2012.
OnTheWight reported “Ventnor Botanic Garden children’s playground may be removed” and the CP’s headline read “Playground on the move” (IWCP 14.12.2012 pg 5).
Neither we, nor Google, recall any media outlet reporting ‘American businessman to close playground’, but as always, we remain keen to be corrected.