The 25-year-old South Coast Botanic Garden is planning a major revitalization to give it a theme, make facilities more attractive and increase tenfold the number of visitors.
"With Marineland closed down, we wish to become the focal point of the Peninsula," said Jim White, chairman of the development committee of a foundation that supports the garden. The garden, which is on unincorporated land surrounded by Rolling Hills Estates, has about 50,000 visitors a year.
White said landscape design and architectural firms are being screened and one will be selected by fall to develop a 10-year plan for improvement, which is expected to have a $5-million price tag. The county Department of Arboreta, of which the garden is a part, will pay 75% and the rest will be covered by grants obtained by the foundation, mostly from corporate donors, White said.
He said firms selected to plan improvements will hold public hearings on what the plan should contain.
The first phase includes more than doubling the 300-space parking lot, redesigning the front entrance and auditorium, expanding the gift shop and improving signage.