Volunteers Worry Seattle Landmark Will See Cuts

Plant OpeningsFrederick Law Olmsted

It's no secret Seattle is facing a tight budget and the mayor has been looking for spots to make midyear cuts. Those cuts could happen any day now and we're told nothing is sacred. The Parks Department's warns we could see cuts to swimming pools, community centers.. and possibly even part of Seattle's history.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory was built 98 years ago. Long before there was a Space Needle or a Pike Place Market, people in Seattle spent their afternoons wandering around the conservatory. Hope Lasseter, with the volunteer group Friends of the Conservatory, describes it as "a museum of plants - it's 5 connecting greenhouses full of plants."

They get more than 150,000 visitors every year from all over the world. It's the kind of place where people visit over and over again. Lorna Guthrie visited when she was a little girl and loved the flowers "I didn't come back for 30 years and I got wowed all over again." Guthrie is a volunteer and docent at the Conservatory.

The conservatory was built in 1912 and modeled after London's Crystal Palace. The park was designed by the prestigious architects John Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. According to Guthrie, the Conservatory was supposed to help establish Seattle world-class city "we were flush with all kinds of gold rush money and we were going to be the London of the west coast."

Besides the history, the building is full of rare, beautiful and exotic plants. They have about 25,000 in the collection and rotate them in and out of the greenhouses, based on the time of the year when they bloom.

To save money, the Parks Department has cut the hours, the staff and the days of operation. But there's major concern that the cuts could go deeper. Don Ganchorre worked at Volunteer Park for decades and loves visiting the Conservatory "it's ridiculous, I mean maybe they should cut administrators."

The Conservatory works with the US Department of Fish and Wildlife as a rescue center for plants that are illegally brought into the country.

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