Florida governor looks to save Cypress Gardens

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The abrupt closure of Cypress Gardens last week prompted Gov. Jeb Bush to suggest the state take over the venerable attraction through the Florida Forever conservation program.

Bush directed officials of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to meet with Cypress Gardens chairman and CEO Bill Reynolds to discuss the matter.

"The governor said he wanted to make sure we do the appropriate thing, that [the park] does not turn into a development," said a spokeswoman for Bush.

"One option is to make it a state park, as we did with Weeki Wachee Springs and Silver Springs."

Originally a federal works project during the Great Depression and the state's oldest theme park, Cypress Gardens closed after 67 years.

Reynolds said the attraction, located 45 miles southwest of Orlando, lost more than $6 million since he and an investor group purchased it from Anheuser-Busch in 1995.

He said business never rebounded from the drop in tourism after 9/11.

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