Bloedel Reserve tweaks its approach to ensure future

The nonprofit Bloedel Reserve is in the midst of completing a strategic plan in an effort to better maintain what it’s all about – gardens and grounds.

The public has had much to do with the effort, having donated $2.5 million during the last two years as part of an endowment fundraising campaign.

The campaign, which was named after Reserve founder Richard Brown, successfully ended last month with more than 140 donors makings gifts ranging from $50 to six figures, said Executive Director Ed Moydell.

Initiated by declining gate receipts, the endowment will be used to pay the director’s salary and office costs, freeing up monies to ensure the financial health of the 150-acre garden.

The original $10 million endowment was established by Prentice and Virgina Bloedel in 1994, and is now at $17.5 million with accrued interest and stock market gains, said Moydell, who became the 501(c)3 nonprofit’s executive director in 2010.

“This new endowment makes us more financially stable and allows us to focus on doing things that will improve the Reserve,” he said. “As a result, we are able to improve the gardens and make them even more accessible to the public.”

The Bainbridge Island tourist attraction now has 20 full-time equivalent employes, half of whom are horticulturists. The total staff is now at 23.

In an effort to make Bloedel more community friendly, it is no longer taking reservations, though it has bumped up its entrance fee slightly for adults.

It also is making an effort to attract more islanders and families. It had a 12 percent increase in attendance in 2010 over the previous year, thanks in part to a Holiday Village event in December that was a huge success.

Two other new events are the Japanese Horticulture and Culture Festival and its first annual Plant Sale in April, which drew a record 3,200 people to the Reserve over a weekend.

“We are working hard to attract a wide variety of audience with new special events,” Moydell said. “We particularly want to see more children and famlies strolling our gardens.”

Moydell said the core program will continue to be the summer concerts and performances, lectures and family activities.

“We have realized we need to do more family things along with continuing to build on making this beautiful place more beautiful,” he said.

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