Cypress Gardens could bloom again

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Trust for Public Land exercised its option to purchase Cypress Gardens one day before its owner, First Gardens, was slated to have bulldozers on the property.

Cypress Gardens, Florida's oldest theme park founded in 1936, was closed in the spring.

TPL, a nonprofit conservation organization, purchased the option in August and had till Jan. 22 to line up buyers to save the land from commercial development.

The deal came together just in time: Kent Buescher of Valdosta, Ga.-based Wild Adventures agreed to purchase Cyprus Gardens from TPL to reopen it as a theme park by Memorial Day weekend.

While Buescher will buy 120 acres of the property for $7 million, the Polk County Commission approved its $2.5 million purchase of the 30-acre botanical garden at the core of the park, which will be reopened as a botanical garden.

The deals have one more hurdle: The Florida governor and cabinet would have to approve the state's purchase of an $11 million conservation easement for the entire 150-acre property. The decision is scheduled to be made Jan. 27.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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