Changes on the way for Maymont
Changes on the way for Maymont
The Maymont Foundation, which just completed the first year of a five-year capital campaign, expects to begin a major overhaul of the 100-acre park as early as next year.
The foundation, which operates the city-owned park, is looking to raise $25 million for major improvements. So far, it has raised $14 million.
The organization also wants to raise an additional $10 million for an endowment that will allow it to run and improve its programs and to operate the park after the work is completed.
Among the projects the foundation wants to complete over the next several years are a major renovation of the Children’s Farm, improvements to the nature center, sustainability programs and enhancements to the landscaping.
“This campaign is going to address a lot of issues, taking the Maymont everyone loves today and improving that, and making it less frustrating for people to use,” said Norman O. Burns II, the foundation’s executive director.
The foundation has already begun working on some smaller infrastructure projects with the city and hopes to begin the major renovation of the Children’s Farm sometime next year. A timetable for completion has not been set.
Burns said there are about 35 projects the foundation wants to address over time. Every element of the park, from the farm to the historic district, “will be ratcheted up in a way that our guests will both enjoy and learn from in ways they’ve never been able to in the past,” he said.
Burns said the foundation’s board will meet next month to begin sketching out a timeline for the work.
In the meantime, the foundation and the city of Richmond have completed a repaving project for walkways along the Maymont Mansion and near the Hampton Street entrance. And there already is some restoration work beginning around the carriage house.
The first phase of the project, which includes the renovation to the Children’s Farm, also will bring new signage throughout the vast park as well signage directing visitors to Maymont. Signage is a big part of the foundation’s efforts because of complaints from visitors that it’s difficult finding and getting around Maymont.
“We know that both Richmonders and, especially, out-of-town guests have a hard time sometimes finding their way to the right entrance at Maymont and even once they get in,” he said.
The foundation also plans to improve restrooms and to make significant improvements to parking and traffic flow.
The foundation got a huge boost in its efforts in recent weeks with a $5 million donation from former board President Kathie Markel and her husband, Steve.
Markel said she hopes the campaign, and her donation, will make people recognize that Maymont relies on outside help.
“It really needs to be brought to the public’s attention that private support is what’s vital to maintaining the park on an ongoing basis,” she said.
Maymont was donated to the city by the Dooley family in 1925. Burns said the foundation took over operations in 1975.
While the foundation gets operating grants from the city, 80 percent of its operations come from donations.
Admission to the park is free, though the foundation asks for voluntary $5 donations for visitors. The foundation rents out portions of the property for weddings, children’s parties and corporate events. There also is a charge for some programs and activities.
Burns said it costs about $11,000 per day to operate the park. According to the foundation’s 2011 tax returns, total expenses in 2010 were about $4 million.
The 2011 returns, which were signed in May 2012, are the latest available.
Burns said the money goes to maintaining the property, operating programs, taking care of the park’s animals and paying employee salaries. The park employs 50.
Maymont includes the historic mansion and surrounding buildings as well as a nature center, children’s farm, arboretum and gardens. The foundation also offers programs for children and students.