Man Camps Out at Walt Disney World's Discovery Island While Resort is Closed Due to Coronavirus

An Alabama man illegally enjoyed the tranquil surroundings of Walt Disney World's Discovery Island while Disney property was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police arrested Richard McGuire, 42, after he was allegedly caught camping out by Disney World security. McGuire told police he was "unaware" that his visit to the abandoned island was trespassing, while describing the island as a "tropical paradise." He was charged with one misdemeanor count of trespassing and banned from Disney properties.

McGuire is from Mobile, Alabama, according an arrest affidavit obtained by Newsweek. He told authorities that he had gained access to the island on Monday or Tuesday and planned to camp there for about a week. He was later spotted by security and before being detained law enforcement had searched for him using helicopter and boats, as well as on foot.

Disney World
Disney World has been closed since March 16 due to public health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty

Numerous "no trespassing" signs are said to be visible on and near the island. Before he was arrested on Thursday, deputies used a loudspeaker system at the resort to inform him he was trespassing and needed to leave, with no response.

Discovery Island has been closed to the public since 1999, having been used as a Disney wildlife park for the previous 25 years. However, the company left all of the original buildings on the island, one of which McGuire was believed to have been staying in when he was discovered.

All Disney parks have been closed indefinitely since March 16 due to public health concerns caused by the pandemic. Although it is unclear when Disney World will be back in business, on Tuesday Variety reported that a Florida task force recently gave the company guidelines to reopen in phases, beginning at 50 percent capacity.

There has been more than one report of trespassing at Disney parks since they closed amid the pandemic. An 18-year-old man was arrested on April 19 after allegedly breaking into Disney's California Adventure park in Anaheim, California.

Trespassing incidents at Disney theme parks also happened with some frequency prior to the coronavirus closures. A Florida man was said to have been under investigation in February after posting "urban explorer" videos to social media, featuring unauthorized visits to Disney property.

Another instance involved former Disney worker Patrick Spikes, who was arrested in 2019 after allegedly breaking into the resort with his cousin and stealing numerous items. Spikes also posted behind-the-scenes photos from the park to social media accounts under the name "BackDoorDisney."

He was charged with five felony counts after allegedly being caught trying to sell stolen items from the park's Haunted Mansion. The case was resolved in February after Spikes reached a plea deal with prosecutors dropping most of the charges, agreeing to 10 years of probation and 250 hours of community service.