Berkeley County has now laid off 10 temporary and 6 full-time employees at one of its premier attractions that was heavily damaged by last month’s flooding.
County spokesman Michael Mule told media outlets on Monday that Cypress Gardens is too heavily damaged to open again soon and that Berkley County cannot afford to pay park employees without the revenue from rentals and general admissions.
“In the meantime we are trying to get these employees reassigned to other county departments,” Mule told South Carolina Radio Network.
The 170-acre swamp preserve operated by Berkeley County near the Cooper River north of Goose Creek. Its signature attractions included walking trails and swamp boats that take visitors through the park’s blackwater swamp.
Six full-time employees were administratively separated last week, but will receive pay and benefits until Nov. 30.
Mule said the affected employees can apply for the special FEMA unemployment insurance. “Temporary employees can apply for that as well as any of the other employees,” said Mule. The deadline to apply in Berkeley County is Thursday.
Two of the employees have already been relocated to other posts in the county’s government, while Mule said a seventh full-timer who had already retired on the state system was relieved of his duties.
The county has to keep eight employees to handle the necessary care of the facilities and animals while Cypress Gardens is closed.
The county-owned park has had a difficult 18 months. A train derailment in April 2014 knocked out a bridge along the park’s primary access route, meaning visitors had to take a 22-mile detour. The bridge was reopened five months later after repairs.