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Greenbo to add SCUBA diving

Jun. 10, 2013 @ 06:55 AM

GREENUP, Ky. -- While there's no swimming in Greenbo Lake, pretty soon folks will be able to dive right in and explore the water world below.

By July, Greenbo Lake State Resort Park will become the first of Kentucky's 50 state parks to open a SCUBA diving facility in a small section (about 10 acres) of the 225-acre lake.

The official ribbon cutting is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, July 20.

To get the site ready, the Friends of Greenbo Lake, which have been working with the park as well as Kentucky's Department Fish and Wildlife Resources, are asking area certified SCUBA divers to come over and check it out during a cleanup day set for Saturday, June 22.

Avid SCUBA diver and instructor, Todd Eastham, of the McCauley Eastham and Associates, based out of Greenup, Ky., and one of the Friends of Greenbo Lake, said on that Saturday they'll be doing a cleanup as well as some surveying underwater where they are going to install an underwater geocache as well as buoys to mark the area.

Dive time will be 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 22. Volunteers will then be treated to a free lunch at the Angler's Cove restaurant at the Lodge. Divers interested in volunteering for the cleanup effort may call Friends volunteer Rodney Mullannix at 606-836-5041 or 859-608-1835.

"Things are proceeding as planned and we're working on the punch list now," said Eastham, who has been diving for about seven or eight years. "We are going to install the buoys in the next couple weeks and finalize everything. The county is taking care of the road details and the parking issues, and everybody has a little piece they are taking care of."

Once open, the diving refuge will be open for divers to use the area from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. April through October. The area would be open for angling at other times. The proposal includes habitat and shoreline improvements at the lake, which has about 13 to 15 feet of visibility underwater.

"It's not 130 foot deep but it is deep enough for you to go and to not hear your cell phone and that all you see or hear is bubbles and what is more relaxing than bubbles," Eastham said.

While the lake has already been used for training dives for various commercial divers such as those at Marathon and other nearby industries, the discussion of a public SCUBA refuge came about over a discussion among the Friends of Greenbo Lake, said president Bobby Allen.

Allen said the divers in the group kept talking about how they would have to drive hours away to Circleville, Ohio to the quarry ponds or Summersville Lake in West Virginia or to Pennyroyal (Blue Springs Resort) in western Kentucky to get their dive on.

"It started out as a lunch table discussion about the possibility of turning a portion of the lake into a SCUBA refuge and so we obviously contacted the people with the parks and the Fish and Wildlife and they had the answers to our questions," Allen said.

The groups held public forums to get perspective from the fishermen and other folks who use the lake and once issues were settled, the groups moved forward with Greenbo.

Not unlike Greenbo's recent unique addition of deer and turkey hunting packages, the state park will be offering dive and stay packages where divers can get a few days worth of diving, all meals and lodging for one price.

Eastham said he thinks with the Tri-State rimmed in universities and fellow divers who are now traveling great distance for the sport, Greenbo will become a popular and inexpensive place to come learn and explore the sport.

"If I am just wanting to tune up or check my equipment I usually have to drive a few hours up the road to a quarry and they just don't have the kind of facilities that Greenbo will be able to offer," Eastham said. "Packages for staying all night, the food and all the easy access from the lodge right down to the refuge which is less than 100 yards away. It's going to make diving here cheaper, easier and quicker. People will be able to enjoy a great outdoor adventure at a fraction of the cost somewhere else."

Eastham said the state park will operate the dive shop and offer rentals, and regular classes will be taught from open water to advanced classes such as search and rescue, night diving, underwater photography and others.

Cary Lyle, general manager at Greenbo, said he's thankful for the cooperation of Fish and Wildlife, state parks, the county and the Friends for making the SCUBA refuge a reality.

Before they've even opened, Lyle said they're fielding calls from dive shops from around the Commonwealth and beyond.

"It's a whole new clientele, and what we are trying to do with the Wildlife Management plan (the new hunting packages) and the SCUBA is to use our natural resources that are available in our part of the state and use them in the way they were intended to be used," Lyle said.

Since the Friends role is mostly advisory, Allen said they're working on some other projects including adding extensive miles of horse trails as well as working on bringing ziplines to the park.

"We've been around a year and about six months as an official non-profit," Allen said. "We have about 17 to 20 members, everything from community to political leaders. Just a good group of active residents that all have a tie to Greenbo in some shape or form."