Decision leaves Cecil zoo trapped in financial cage


ELKTON -- Plumpton Park Zoological Gardens in Rising Sun had a setback Friday when a judge dismissed a request to allow the park to reopen and be financially supported by the county.

The Circuit Court hearing followed an injunction petition filed by the zoo Monday with a $5 million lawsuit seeking damages resulting from the zoo's closure Oct. 3 by the Cecil County government.

The zoo was shut temporarily for electrical repairs. Since then, the county has said it is not responsible for the zoo's operation or the cost of the repairs.

At issue is the zoo's 25-year lease with the county and who is financially responsible for correcting the zoo's problems.

The decision by Judge Edward D. E. Rollins Jr. leaves Plumpton Park officials in a financial bind, zoo attorney Michael J. Stewart said. "They will not be able to make the payroll, and without the payroll, there will be no zoo," he said.

The zoo receives part of its annual $240,000 budget from the county. The rest comes from admissions, usually about $160,000 a year, and a support foundation, which provides $10,000 to $20,000

The county issued a check to the zoo this month. Most of that money has been used, said Edward Plumstead, owner of the zoo property, who said he expects to run out of money to feed the animals by mid-December."We have never operated that zoo," County Attorney H. Norman Wilson said. "The field operations were always in Mr. Plumstead's hands. It's his hobby that he wants the county to pay everything for," Mr. Wilson said.

"To say the county never operated the zoo is not exactly true," Mr. Stewart said. "As far as putting hay in a trough, no. But the responsibility is clearly in the county's hands."

Mr. Stewart and Haven N. Shoemaker Jr., another attorney for the zoo, said they will seek another injunctive hearing.

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