Bok Tower Gardens Fares Well After Re-Opening
by James Coulter
Nearly one month after re-opening to the public, Bok Tower Gardens has been going strong, especially amidst such fair spring-turned-summer weather.
Bok Tower Gardens re-opened on June 1 after remaining closed for several weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting statewide stay-at-home order.
Since re-opening, Bok Tower has implemented several precautions to ensure the health and safety of their visitors, from requiring face masks indoors and with interactions with staff, to setting up hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the park.
Initially, the gardens utilized timed-entry tickets, which required visitors to purchase their tickets online and select an allotted time. They would arrive at the gardens during the selected time and be able to remain until the gardens closed at 6 p.m.
“After watching our traffic and seeing we were not hitting that [full] capacity, we stopped,” explained Erica Smith, Director of Marketing & Public Relations. “Like many destinations, we are experimenting with what keeps our visitors as safe and healthy as possible.”
Their main priority has been to require visitors to wear face masks, especially when visiting indoor facilities and interacting with park staff and attendants.
“That is our number one priority,” she said. “When you interact with the gate attendant, we ask that you have your mask on. When you come inside the visitor center or come inside the shop at Bok or order at the café, we ask you to have on a mask.”
The Gardens has also advised visitors to take social distancing precautions by remaining at least six feet apart from other park guests. In areas where guests can be more than 12 feet apart, masks are not required in outdoor areas.
Even with these safety precautions, certain services and activities have not been continued. The indoor theater that plays the video detailing the history of the park will remain closed until further notice, as the space inside is not sufficient to meet social distancing guidelines.
Summer programming such as various youth camps and activities have also been canceled. On the bright side, the Clarion Concerts are moving forward as scheduled, and Camp Bok, with various in-person and virtual educational experiences, has been started: https://boktowergardens.org/camp-bok-activities/
Visitors have boasted about the beauty of the gardens, especially in light of the current pandemic, and despite current guidelines. One Facebook review praised the park for its natural beauty, with the person who wrote it becoming so enamored that they renewed their passes.
“We love this place,” they wrote. “We visited today and everyone was so friendly, we had a delicious late lunch at the cafe, did a little shopping in the cool AC (if you like unique and plants, you will love to shop here) and the gardens…wow! The tower was playing music more than I remember it did in the past and my daughter loved feeding the Koi fish. Just a great experience all around. We renewed passes too!”
Since re-opening, park attendance has proven slow, as summertime is the slowest season for the Gardens, Smith said. While they do not have record crowds, they have seen more visitors than they usually see for a typical summer day, Smith said.
“We have 258 acres of space that we can spread people out, and we do see that our visitors are taking advantage of our wide-open spaces and all of our nature trail areas,” she said. “This place has experienced world wars and depressions and hurricanes, and the gardens are still fierce.”
The “keyword” to their success since re-opening has been “pivot.” The Gardens has experimented with various safety guidelines and measures. If something doesn’t work, they try something new. Such flexibility has allowed them to remain resilient, Smith said.
“We are watching, like some Americans are, what will happen and what we will need to do,” Smith said. “We would try one thing and if that didn’t work, then we needed to make changes and we pivoted and made those changes…We are being resilient in this pandemic and trying to find what is the best walk that line between keeping visitors safe and being a wonderful outdoor attraction that people will enjoy.”
Bok Tower Gardens is located at 1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853. For more information, visit their website at: https://boktowergardens.org/