Aug. 1, 2018. This is NOT what camping is all about, but how did it happen? How did this Brevard County park campground in Florida turn into a nightmare homeless encampment with rampant drug and alcohol use, writes Rick Neale in Florida Today?
David Thornton found out the hard way when he reserved a Wickham Park campsite over the phone, then drove 1,200 miles from Temple, Texas, with his wife and three Chihuahuas to relax and see old friends for a week in July.
But what Thornton found was not a bucolic county campground but homeless people occupying tarp-covered tents and trailers across Campground A, the same campground where RVers in expensive RVs also camp.
Just after 1 a.m. on Thornton’s very first night, police swarmed the campground and arrested a 41-year-old indigent Palm Bay man for battery domestic violence after he repeatedly punched his girlfriend in the face. As the week wore on, Thornton said up to a dozen people would drink beer and “raise a bunch of hell” at night on the lot next door, where people live in an aging camper and accompanying tent. They finally had enough and packed up early after an unleashed dog from that trailer attacked their Chihuahua for the third time.
“The night prior to that, there was a drunk fest in the park where all the homeless people were stumbling around like they were drunk zombies. You could smell marijuana being smoked all over the place,” Thornton said.
Brevard County Parks and Recreation operates the 133-site facility and has added a private security service to patrol the campgrounds at night. The first patrols will start at 9 p.m. on Aug. 7.
What is wrong here? Do current laws prohibit preventive measures to avoid such activities, or is the county rec department just lax and incompetent? And are we looking forward to the necessity of some campgrounds hiring security guards?