MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley County has shelved plans to extend a new sewer line to Cypress Gardens, making it unlikely the popular nature park will expand in the near future.
County Council approved a sewer line for the park in 2005, but officials say it's now considered a low priority compared with a list of about $200 million worth of other water and sanitation projects in the planning or construction stages, some of which are anticipated to run over budget.
"We're trying to determine what projects we can do with the amount of money we have," County Supervisor Dan Davis said Monday. "There are several projects on the bottom of the list that we are just not doing any more work on right now, and Cypress Gardens is one of them."
The park's septic system is at capacity, but adequate for the park's current needs, Director Dwight Williams said.
Many fans of Cypress Gardens wanted a new sewer line so the park could expand and bring in more customers and revenue. In February, more than 150 people filled the park's Dean Hall and discussed several ideas, such as building a bed and breakfast.
Jolinda Phillips attended the meeting. Phillips, who participates in the Cypress Gardens Players with her husband and daughter, said it's unfortunate a county growing as fast as Berkeley can't afford a sewer line to support one of its greatest treasures. "I think that's sad," Phillips said. "I can't imagine that would be such a burden on the county budget just to do that."
Residents of the nearby Durham Landing subdivision have been asking for a sewer line for years because of repeated backup problems with some of their septic systems.
Colin Martin, the county's Water and Sanitation Authority director, said the sewer project was budgeted at about $650,000 but is now expected to cost about twice that. He said they hope to be able to afford the project but that it's a matter of priority. Other projects on the county's plate include the construction of a $30 million centralized wastewater treatment plant, $6 million for sewer-line rehabilitation and another $5.3 million for a water project at Cross.
Former county Supervisor Jim Rozier, who made the park a pet project since the county took it over in 1996, criticized the suspension of the sewer line as "politics at its worst" and "the beginning of the end" of Cypress Gardens.
New County Deputy Supervisor Chip Boling, said the delay won't hurt the park's progress. He said the meeting spurred the creation of an advisory board that will help assess the park's needs and plan its future over the next 12 to 18 months.