Beginning today, Monday, March 2, 2020, the personal vehicle parking fee for The North Carolina Arboretum increases from $14 per car to $16. Rates for passenger vans, motorhomes and commercial buses will remain unchanged. The Arboretum’s board of directors made the decision to increase the parking fee in order to support the Arboretum’s continued growth, provide new offerings and upgrades, as well as create opportunities for future enhancements and jobs. This review process occurs every two years and rates haven’t increased since 2017. The board’s commitment to grow the Arboretum’s mission and outreach reflects the reality of significantly reduced state funding over the past ten years and the necessity of asking users of the Arboretum to take a greater share of support for the organization.

The 10,000+ member households of The North Carolina Arboretum Society, who will continue to enjoy unlimited parking privileges, have also generously picked up their commitment to support the Arboretum’s offering, both in terms of quality and quantity. It is largely due to parking fees, membership support and private donations that the Arboretum now has beautifully renovated features in the Stream Garden, Quilt Garden, Plants of Promise Garden, Forest Meadow and Bonsai Exhibition Garden, and our quality standards have remained uncompromisingly high in our facilities. Our newest project, Willow Pond, will open later this summer and will bring new attention to the aquatic wildlife in our area and creative management of storm water. In June, our parking renovation and expansion will be complete, eliminating inconvenient waits during some of our most popular events and visitation periods, and create a more sustainable stormwater runoff system.

As we operate and maintain these and other assets, such as the bountiful trails within the Arboretum’s 434-acre boundary, the staff, aided by more than 600 generous and talented volunteers, deliver exceptional visitor experiences efficiently and cost-effectively. Further, they contribute toward fundraising by making possible the Arboretum’s annual Winter Lights holiday light show, special traveling exhibits including the upcoming Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks exhibit and popular seasonal plant shows, such as the highly popular Asheville Orchid Festival in April and Carolina Bonsai Expo in June.

Other free or low-cost options for access to the Arboretum include half-price parking the first Tuesday of each month, free parking for veterans and military service members on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, free parking for Buncombe County and Henderson County Library’s ZOOM pass program and free parking for the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal program. And, of course, there is no fee for those who access the Arboretum by walking or bicycling onto property.

By maintaining a well-diversified set of funding sources, the Arboretum, even during times of economic downturn, has been able to offer consistent and high-quality experiences to our visitors. We appreciate and value the parking fees from our guests, constituting an essential element of that funding strategy. By working together, we can continue to see this unique institution in our mountains thrive and grow our audience both on property and across North Carolina.