May 29, 2013 — A soft opening of Greenbo Lake State Resort Park’s new scuba diving area will take place late next month, with an official opening date in July.
Officials met at the park last Thursday afternoon to hammer out final details, including rules, admission fees and preparations before the site can open.
A free diving cleanup day, which will serve as a soft opening, will be June 22. On that day, the $15 admission fee will be waived for divers who volunteer to help remove underwater debris and trash from the area. A formal grand opening date is slated for mid-July, but officials are still working out the details.
When it opens, Greenbo’s 10-acre public dive area will be the only one of its kind in the state. It was approved by state legislators and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials last year on a three-year trial basis.
Members of the nonprofit Friends of Greenbo Lake spearheaded the effort in cooperation with local and state Department of Parks officials. It is part of a larger, ongoing effort to diversify recreational offerings at state parks to attract and retain visitors.
“We’re very excited about it,” said Cary Lyle, park director. “This is going to be a wonderful thing. It’s going to bring in a new clientele to the park. It’s going to give avid scuba divers a new place to come.”
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity,” agreed Barbara Atwood, acting deputy commissioner of the Department of Parks and executive director of administration and research. She attended the Friends meeting, in which admission fees and diver rules were agreed upon.
“Coming to this meeting and seeing all the enthusiasm of people that actually do the sport, I think this could be a great success,” Atwood said.
“As much as we want to hope that the next generation will just enjoy the beauty and the hiking (in state parks), we know that sometimes they want some more physical or fun things ... like ziplining or this. This would introduce the sport to a landlocked area. People generally don’t think about scuba unless they live near the ocean or on a bigger body of water.”
Friends members also see great potential for growth in the new attraction. It will be the only scuba area in the country with indoor lodging and a restaurant on site. Other areas offer only camping to divers.
Lyle said package deals that would offer divers admission, lodging and meals are being worked out.
Friends volunteer Todd Eastham, a scuba instructor, said Greenbo’s diving is appropriate for beginners and intermediate divers. He believes it could become a popular place for instructors to bring classes. Certified divers who want to “brush up skills” or test gear before traveling long distances to dive could also become important clientele, he said.
But before the area can open, several things need to happen. The access road must be widened and parking spaces for divers striped, both of which Greenup County officials have agreed to do. Buoys to mark off the refuge and serve as boat tie-ups will soon be placed by volunteers and a ladder for dock access will be installed in the coming weeks.
Modifications to a legal waiver were also discussed Thursday, requiring each diver to have a buddy and display his or her own diver-down flags. Before using the refuge, divers will be required to check in with park officials, pay the admission fee and sign the waiver.
Divers interested in volunteering for the cleanup effort may call Friends volunteer Rodney Mullannix at (606) 836-5041 or (859) 608-1835.