Supporters asked how they could donate money, equipment and volunteer to help, after Botanic Gardens Director Judy Holt posted on social media about the burglaries that occurred on the evening of Friday, July 7, and the morning of Saturday, July 8. Numerous power and hand tools were stolen from a secure garage and are believed to have been done by the same perpetrators.
Holt said the theft was devastating but she was comforted by the reaction of supporters.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Holt said. “It’s very frustrating that this has happened, but the response has been so overwhelming, it makes me feel like everyone who visits the gardens, or responds on social media, feels personally insulted. They feel like it’s their garden.”
One of the stolen vehicles was a new off-road vehicle donated by Toro and the other was a 16-year-old Honda off-road vehicle. Both were used to move equipment and supplies across trails, hills and fire roads on the 40 acres, especially areas difficult to reach on foot. Staff used a Honda to sweep the parks at closing time to make sure everyone had left.
Although the parks still have some hand and power tools as backup, the loss of vehicles and power tools means more labor and time is needed to maintain the parks, Holt said. Repairs and cleaning will take time away from gardening tasks.
Like most other gardens, the UCR Botanic Gardens is largely self-financed. The College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences provides salary support for some staff, while the majority of the staff and operating budget is raised through donations, Friends of the Botanic Gardens membership, and revenues earned from rentals, tours, photo shoots and other activities. Holt said the funding model is typical for state parks and that UCR’s funding percentage is higher than some other similar parks.
UCR insurance will cover much of the loss, but the parks expect to invest additional funding to complete repairs and enhance security. Supporters who want to help can donate to the Botanical Gardens General Fund on its giving page, Holt said. While botanical gardens have many funds, most are allocated to specific projects. The General Fund allows the greatest flexibility in being able to replace stolen equipment and tools and continue to improve safety and security at parks.
Although the parks have been robbed and vandalized before, Holt said, these break-ins were the worst they had seen.
Security measures have been taken and the UCR Police Department is investigating. Lieutenant James Wright described it as a top priority for the department.
“The Gardens are very near and dear to us,” Wright said. “Just like any other property on campus, we take it very seriously.”
Anyone with information can contact the police department at 951-827-5222. More information about how to support the Botanical Gardens is available at Gardens.ucr.edu/giving or by contacting email@example.com.