Camper on Closed Disney World Island Is Charged With Trespassing
It had the makings of an adventure straight from Disney’s “Swiss Family Robinson” — being on an uninhabited island and living off the land.
But for one Alabama man, the adventure — on a former island attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida — was short-lived and ended in an arrest.
The man, Richard J. McGuire, 42, of Mobile, Ala., was accused of trespassing at the theme park after he tried to camp on Discovery Island, a former zoological park that was closed in 1999, the authorities said.
On Thursday, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of a trespasser on the island, which is east of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, in Bay Lake. A security representative for Disney told deputies she had seen a man using a boat earlier that day and that the area was closed to the public, with signs warning against trespassing.
As a deputy arrived, Disney staff members were helping a small boat with Mr. McGuire aboard to shore, according to an arrest report.
Mr. McGuire told the authorities that he had reached the island on Monday or Tuesday to go camping and that he planned to stay there for “approximately one week,” the report said.
Told that the area was restricted, Mr. McGuire said he was unaware of that and described the island as looking “like a tropical paradise,” the report said.
Online maps show that the park, which opened in 1974, had a flamingo lagoon, a turtle beach and alligator swamp. It closed 25 years later and photos and a 2017 video show the remnants of the abandoned attraction: deteriorating buildings, overgrown trees, a former animal hospital and an abandoned dock.
Law enforcement authorities told Mr. McGuire that they had been searching for him on foot and by boat and air. Deputies used a public-address system to warn him to leave the island, the report said.
Mr. McGuire told deputies he had did not seen or heard them because he was sleeping in one of the buildings on the island.
He was charged with a misdemeanor count of trespassing and was banned from Disney properties. He could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and it was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
“This serves as a reminder that trespassing is not permitted at Walt Disney World Resort,” a Disney representative said on Sunday. “We appreciate our security team and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for assisting in this matter.”