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Low-income families get free admission to 3 Golden Gate Park gardens

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 11/21/2020 By Jason Fagone

Low-income families can now visit the gardens of Golden Gate Park for free.

Admission to the Botanical Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden normally costs up to $38 for a family of four. But those fees will be waived for visitors enrolled in one of several public assistance programs, including CalFresh, SNAP and Medi-Cal, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Friday.

“All San Franciscans, regardless of their income, should have access to the art and cultural institutions that our city has to offer,” Breed said in a statement.

Up to four free tickets are available to anyone with an Electronic Benefit Transfer card showing membership in the Cal-Fresh or SNAP food-assistance programs, whether they live in the city or not. City residents in the Medi-Cal health insurance program can also enter the gardens with their Medi-Cal card and proof of San Francisco residency.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Golden Gate Park has served as a respite for many San Franciscans, a calm place in an anxious city.

“The last nine months have proven that parks are not merely ‘nice-to-haves.’ They’re must-haves,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Park Department. “Golden Gate Park has been essential to our physical health, our mental health, and frankly our sanity. And we wanted to really send a strong signal that Golden Gate Park is open and welcome to everyone.”

The three gardens, which are a short walk from each other, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Botanical Garden sprawls across 55 acres crisscrossed with paths and contains some 8,000 plant varieties. The Conservatory of Flowers, which dates to the 19th century, is a glassed-in greenhouse that nutures rare orchids and other exotic tropical species. The Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest Japanese garden in America, features cherry blossom trees, koi ponds and pagodas.

“We want people to enjoy and experience all three of these gardens and think of them as one big garden,” Ginsburg said. “Really, combined, they’re one of the most special plant museums anywhere in the country.”

Jason Fagone is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jason.fagone@sfchronicle.com

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