Moss Park swimming area could close permanently after gator attack

County officials consulting with FWC

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The future of a longtime swimming spot at Moss Park is uncertain two weeks after an alligator bit a 10-year-old girl at Lake Mary Jane, Orange County officials said.

Juliana Ossa suffered an injury to the front of her knee and several puncture wounds to the back of her knee and lower thigh when the alligator, which was 8 feet 9 inches long, bit her May 6.

Since then, the beach area of the park has been closed and officials said they aren't sure when or if it will reopen.

Signs at the park warn visitors of alligators and that they should swim at their own risk, but buoys and lifeguards at the public park make it feel safe. 

But as Ossa learned, there's nothing to stop the alligators that are often spotted outside the designated swimming area from ducking under the rope and past the buoys to lurk around the swimmers.

Park visitor Dustin Benton said he would have gone in the water Monday if the area had reopened, but his fiancee Angie Frankino was against it, especially after learning that there have been two alligator attacks in the area in the past seven years.

Benton said parkgoers should be able to decide for themselves if they want to go in the water.

"I mean, if the county wants to open a park in a place where the alligators have lived, I guess personally that's our decision to come here and decide to swim," Benton said.

Frankino disagreed.

"See, now, me as a new mom with a little one, I'd say close it. It's not even worth it," Frankino said.

Officials said they are considering closing the area permanently, they said they have to weigh the beauty and recreation the park offers with the liability the county could face if there is another gator attack.

Orange County personnel said they will continue to consult with Florida Fish and Wildlife officials to determine if the water is safe for swimming.

About the Author: