Alabama Man Arrested For Quarantining At ‘Tropical Paradise’—Disney’s Abandoned Discovery Island

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

While we all miss Disney World and Disneyland, the right thing to do is to stay home. Especially since … they’re not open right now.

It’s a weird historical moment for Disney parks to close, but it’s the reality we’re currently in.

However, someone must have forgotten to send 42-year-old Richard McGuire a memo. He was arrested for trespassing after he was found camping out at Walt Disney World’s Discovery Island. It’s a little unclear as to how things actually happened. In Richard’s mind, he reportedly thought that he was camping at a “tropical paradise.”

Yes, this new normal has made us all do some crazy things.

But this may be one of the craziest. Not only has it been national news that Disney parks are shut down, but there were signs about trespassing that Richard had to have seen. Maybe he thought it’d be OK since he was still social distancing. Or maybe he had no clue how he ended up there in the first place. Stranger things have happened.

While sad, the story does have some humor to it.

According to USA Today, Richard was arrested on April 30. Originally from Mobile, Alabama, he must have traveled a long way to get to the closed park. It’s possible he just wanted a little bit of solitude and figured he wouldn’t get caught. However, his idea still posed many dangers.

“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, Florida, police officer, said in his report. So that confirms that Richard knew exactly what he was doing prior to trespassing. This wasn’t an accident.

He even had a game plan set. Richard was sleeping in one of the buildings on his “tropical” island. But sadly, it’s something he’ll never get to experience again. After being found by police, he was banned from all Disney properties from here on out. That’s a bad sentence for Disney lovers.

Curious about Discovery Island? It’s what Disney renamed Treasure Island. However, that area of the park has been closed since 1999. USA Today reports that Disney has been trying to figure out how to best utilize the space, and at one point hired on the help of video game developers to figure it out.

So, technically, Richard found a good place to hide out — an attraction that had long been closed in a park with no visitors. Still, you don’t mess with Disney. The company tries hard to make sure its parks offer the best experience possible to tourists, and random “campers” take away from that goal.

While it’s an experiment that none of us should even dream of trying, it’s easy to see what Richard was thinking. Right now, all of us need a vacation from what’s happening in the world. However, plans are being canceled left and right in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading.

We have a right to be disappointed over our lack of plans. But it makes sense as to why we can’t travel. This won’t be the way of the world forever, and trespassing isn’t the way to get what you desire. Especially in Richard’s case — if he ever wanted to tour Disney again, he’s now unable to.

It’s also interesting that Richard made it seem as if he didn’t know better. At one point, authorities were looking for him by using a boat and helicopter. However, as CNN reports, he claims that he didn’t hear them overhead since he was sleeping at the time. So now we know that Richard isn’t necessarily a light sleeper.

If he chose Disney World since he can’t wait for the reopening, it seems like he would have had to wait a lot longer. USA Today talked to an analyst who, unofficially, guessed that the parks would reopen in January of 2021 — which is almost unthinkable.

John Hodulik, the managing director of investment research at global financial firm UBS, said that he thinks the growing health concerns will keep the Disney parks — and others like it — closed for the remainder of the year. Disney hasn’t commented on it yet. But the entertainment company is probably like the rest of us, waiting to see what happens before making a big call.

But John’s findings are very convincing. “We believe Parks’ profitability will be impaired for a longer period of time given the lingering effects of the outbreak and now assume an opening date of Jan. 1 as our base case,” he wrote. “That said, the economic recession plus the need for social distancing, new health precautions, the lack of travel and crowd aversion are likely to make this business less profitable until there is a widely available vaccine.”

He has a good point. Also, vacation plans like a trip to Disney World require a lot of planning, which can be tough if airlines are also unsure about their travel policies. It’s a scary time to be in, since nobody really knows what tomorrow will bring. The best thing to do is to continue following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and keeping up to date with your state’s own restrictions.

At the very least, you can always try to experience Disney from home — which is exactly what Richard should have done. Disney+ is an incredible place to find all of your favorite Disney films, and it keeps adding more to its list. There’s also no shortage of Disney World photos and videos online.

But if that’s not enough, the best course of action is to wait. Don’t try to do what Richard did, even though it sounds like a fun fantasy — especially if your household has been driving you a little crazy. Next time you need some peace and quiet, take a calming walk outside. It’s the safest way to escape.