NICEVILLE — Where there is fresh water in Florida, there are alligators. And Turkey Creek Park is no exception, despite the fact that it’s cool, swift-moving creek waters aren’t the perfect gator habitat.
In recent months, park staff have dealt with two, the most recent being a small gator who parked himself on the sidewalk outside the women’s restroom.
“A patron came up to the office and told me there was a gator lying on the sidewalk,” says Park Ranger Eddie Carrico. “Everybody came. I don’t know how they saw it or heard about it, but seemed like they got there quicker than I did.”
Carrico, who has also worked at the Niceville Police Department, called an officer to help him. He put a towel over the gator’s head, picked it up and had the other officer tape its mouth shut. He then got into the back of the patrol car with the gator in his lap for a short ride to the bayou.
“I know from putting people in the back of the car, you can’t get out,” he said, admitting that he was a little nervous.
A few weeks before that, park officials dealt with a much larger gator near one of the swimming holes. The gator was lying right under the boardwalk, though he eventually moved to the other side of the creek. Carrico called Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who sent a trapper.
“We pretty much had everyone not swim that day,” he said. “We advised them it wouldn’t be a safe thing to do.”
As the water level got higher, the gator was washed down into the bayou and has not been seen in the park since.