Norfolk Botanical Garden opens remaining facilities on Friday


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY)- Norfolk Botanical Garden will open its facilities and resume classes this Friday.

It’s part of the phase 2 reopening of businesses and locations around the commonwealth of Virginia amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The grounds of the garden have been open to the public, but staff took extra safety measures.

“We closed all the buildings right away. Immediately we gave staff extra sick time if you need to stay at home. We doubled their sick bank. You don’t need a doctor’s note. Stay home if you’re worried. Stay home and take care of your kids. Our non-essential staff stayed home,” said Michael Desplaines, who is the president and CEO of Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Desplaines says the garden will follow state guidelines.

“50 percent capacity, 6 feet tape lines everywhere where a line might form in check out. And classes, for the most part, will be outside so they can spread out,” he said.

Staff will continue to have their meetings on Zoom for safety.

Desplaines says they’re confident visitors will be safe.

“All of us, when we go home, we have to live in this COVID world too,” Desplaines said. “We have to go into a store and stand in a line. I think by now people are used to it. I think that’s why we’re calling it the new normal now until at least next spring or when we get the vaccine.”

The garden also became a popular destination for many seeking a place of relaxation amid the beginning stages of the pandemic.

Desplaines says the last two weeks in March, they saw a 20- to 25-percent increase in visitors.

However in April, they saw a 20- to 25-percent drop in visitors.

Desplaines says that’s because April is a busy bus tour month for them with people visiting to see the Azaleas, as well as guests from the Tattoo Festival.

“I was surprised but in May, it was right back up to 20 to 25 percent over last year. So we’re really encouraged by that that we’ve given people something to do to, opportunities to connect to nature especially in a time like this when the entire world is suffering. America is suffering so connect to nature. Plants are healers. They have the power to connect all of us. We are part of nature. We’re so grateful we were allowed to stay open,” he said.

To learn more about their safety measures, click here.

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