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?
My wife and I just returned from a 6-day stay there and it couldn’t have been more pleasant. There were a couple of time when a police car or two would roam the area but nothing unusual happened. There were several “blue homes” with various amounts of residents evident but as we wandered through the park and talked with some of these folk, they seemed genuinely friendly and caring. We experienced no rude, loud, or obnoxiousness at any time. We didn’t see (or smell) any form of drug use at all. There were some who obviously struggling with making ends meet and were doing their best to cope with a difficult situation but there wasn’t any form of panhandling or begging that we seen. In short, we had a good time and will definitely be back again.
I had read about this park before, but didn’t know it was the one I have in my itinerary for next year when I visit the Space Coast! Thanks for providing a link to the full article so I could learn that this is Wickham County Park in Melbourne, FL. I won’t be stay there. . .
Private security? Does the county or city not have a police department?
We have stayed many times at this park but it has always had a homeless problem. There are 3 camping loops with FHUs and then a non hookup area for tents. Many homeless folks will simply go to Walmart and buy a tent and sleeping bag and park themselves at this campground for the maximum amount of time allowed. While there a few years ago we left our rig at the site and went to the Florida Keys for a couple of days. We left our bicycles chained to the picnic table only to find that they had been stripped when we returned. I searched the entire campground and found some of our parts beside a tent in the non hookup area. The thieves were so stupid that they did not know how to release the wheels from the frame so in order to do so they let the air out of the tires. Lesson learned, lock not only the frames but the wheels as well.