The day that Cypress Gardens closed was the day that Burma Davis Posey started. Her task seemed daunting at the time -- save a park that was destined to be bulldozed and sold off to real estate developers -- but the former Miss Georgia was determined to champion for the park's preservation anyway. She created Friends of Cypress Gardens, recruited activists and celebrity friends like Delta Burke to help her cause and ultimately won the blessing of Florida's governor to save Cypress Gardens. Without Burma there would be no eCypress.com and, much more importantly, no Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. That's why it was an honor to have her share her thoughts in a March 2005 interview with eCypress.com. We hope you will enjoy this glimpse at someone that truly made a difference.
April 13, 2003. It must clearly have been an emotional
day as you and your daughter went to the park to
distribute 14,500 fliers with Florida Governor Jeb
Bush's email address in an effort to preserve the park
during its last operating day as the original Cypress
Gardens. What were your thoughts -- what did you and
Shanna talk about on the drive out to the park -- and
what were your thoughts and conversations on the way
Our emotions began the moment we heard the announcement about the closing. I remember where I was standing and what I was doing. Like everyone who loves Cypress Gardens, we went into shock! We actually took my 4 months old Grandson to the Park on April 12, 2003 the day before the closing to photograph him in some of the same special places I had photographed my children while they were growing up... the same places where my Grandmother had photographed me as a child.
Shanna and I were stunned to see an entire crowd in tears. It was like a giant wake with 20,000 people. After visiting and sharing with total strangers about their personal stories and memories, I knew that day we must try to save the Park.
I called my Florida Arts Council colleague, Roy Hunt, at the end of the day from my car in the K-Mart parking lot across from the Gardens. Roy had been President of the Florida Historic Society and I knew he would be aware of any available funding. And indeed he was. Roy is the person who told me about the "Florida Forever" program! It sounded tailor made to save our Gardens! Shanna, Adam, and I returned to Orlando and I e-mailed Governor Bush to ask if he would allow the State to be involved. He answered quickly and said he would consider it.
THAT WAS ALL I NEEDED TO HEAR!!!
Shanna and I stayed up until around 5:00 a.m., a habit that would continue for almost a year. The next morning we actually had 20,000 fliers made with the Governor's three e-mail addresses and a plea for people to write to him begging to get the State involved.
My husband, Jim, kept Adam so Shanna could drive with me back to Polk County. On the drive over, it was strange because I felt God was sending us on His mission. This land was almost sacred. He impressed me to talk to the owner and I did not even know who the owner was. But I have GREAT faith and have learned to trust His voice in my heart. Shanna has come to trust that as well. So off we went with a trunk full of fliers and praying that God would pave the road before us! Sure enough, Bill Reynolds agreed to come from his home to meet us although there were many other angry people who wanted to see him... Brides whose weddings had been cancelled, vendors, season pass holders, even auctioneers.
Bill and I met for an hour as Shanna and his son, Will, watched. I told him what I hoped to do. He gave me his word if I could get the State involved, he would not sell to another buyer even if their price was higher. We were so naive. We had no idea at that time the owners planned to develop the property themselves. Bill Reynolds gave us permission to hand out the fliers and after 14,500, Shanna and I had paper cuts all over our hands and arms. But we never stopped. Most of those 14,500 people told us:
"This will do no good! You're wasting your time."
"No one will listen to someone like me!"
"Politicians don't ever really read our letters".
But we told them their voice WAS important and they COULD make a difference. We begged those people to write to Governor Bush... we told little children to write to him and tell him their ages. We stayed until the last person left. I had also put my e-mail address on the fliers and when we returned to Lake Mary around 11:00 p.m., cc's of letters were already pouring in that had been sent to Governor Bush. Shanna and I were astounded!!! Again we stayed up into wee hours of the morning in tears as we read one touching story after another.
Interview with Burma Continued