Man arrested after camping on Disney World's Discovery Island during coronavirus pandemic

Morgan Hines, USA TODAY
·3 min read
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, closed down Sunday night in response to the pandemic.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, closed down Sunday night in response to the pandemic.

Disney World has been closed since mid-March as the world faces the coronavirus pandemic. One man saw the closure as an opportunity to turn a Disney island into his personal campsite, but that didn't last long.

Richard McGuire, 42, from Mobile, Alabama, was arrested April 30 after camping on Walt Disney World's Discovery Island, according to an arrest report acquired by USA TODAY. He was banned from all Disney properties and charged with trespassing.

Orange County officers conducted a search by foot, boat and helicopter and eventually found him.

He had been sleeping in one of the island's buildings and referred to the property as a “tropical paradise,” according to the arrest report.

"Richard stated that he had made entry to the island to go camping on Monday or Tuesday and had planned on staying on the island for approximately one week," Robert Ricks, an Orange County police officer, wrote in the report.

What is Discovery Island?The Disney World attraction where a man was caught camping shut down in 1999

McGuire also told Ricks that he was "unaware" that he was trespassing when he was on the property.

However, there were multiple "no trespassing" and "private property" signs on and near the island.

Disney's Discovery Island, which was originally called "Treasure Island" and is located in Disney World's Bay Lake, closed to the public in 1999, according to Atlas Obscura. Since then, it has been off limits, though Disney explored new ways to use the island and at one point tried to work with video game developers to turn the island into a series of puzzles to solve while exploring.

In spite of its closure, McGuire is not the first person to get onto the island. Atlas Obscura reported that others have found their way onto the island and captured what remains on film.

USA TODAY reached out to Disney for comment.

When will Disney parks reopen and will they be the same?

Disney World and Disneyland have been closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus. When they do reopen, they could look and feel very different.

They also may not reopen at the same time. Walt Disney World in Florida could reopen within weeks under guidelines recommended in that state. Disneyland may not reopen for months under California's more conservative plan. Disney's overseas parks also may take more time to reopen.

A UBS financial analyst predicted last week that the parks would not reopen before January, but a Disney spokesperson wouldn't comment on the timing or details of plans to reopen any of the company's theme parks.

The reopening of attractions such as theme parks will be tied to the resumption of nonessential travel. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC on Tuesday that Disney parks would play a role in getting travelers back on commercial flights.

Travelers "need to have something to be able to do when they get there," Kelly said. "So Disney World needs to open back up. Restaurants need to open back up."

A local government economic recovery task force in Orange County, Florida, recommended guidelines for reopening Walt Disney World in Orlando similar to guidelines provided by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

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Contributing: Curtis Tate

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disney World: Man arrested camping on Discovery Island amid COVID-19