Discovery Island has sat abandoned at Walt Disney World since 1999, but according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Office report, 42-year-old Florida resident Richard McGuire called it “a tropical paradise.”
McGuire was arrested and charged with trespassing Thursday, WKMG-TV reported, after police searched for him by foot, helicopter and by boat. According to the arrest report, McGuire claimed to have been camping on the island since Monday or Tuesday, planned to stay about a week and hadn’t heard police addressing him because he was sleeping inside one of the island’s abandoned buildings.
He also claimed to be unaware that the island was off limits. Along with being arrested and charged with trespassing, he was also ordered not to return to Disney World properties.
McGuire isn’t the first trespasser on Discovery Island.
Located in the middle Bay Lake, between Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Campground, the island once hosted a kind of proto-Animal Kingdom, with exotic birds, lemurs and Galápagos tortoises. In 1999, a year after Animal Kingdom opened, the island closed to the public, with the animals being relocated but the structures remaining behind.
That’s made it a cherished target for “urban explorers,” some of whom have spoken to Orlando Rising (anonymously) about their exploits in other parts of Disney World.
A 2009 blog post from one explorer, Shane Perez, detailed how he and a friend swam approximately 300 feet from Fort Wilderness to the island, then searched through its abandoned buildings, finding discarded photos of cast members, bottles of preserved snakes and even two young vultures.