Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 21, 2013

Greenbo opens new Scuba Refuge

GREENBO STATE RESORT PARK — After year of planning and months of preparation, a 10-acre Scuba Refuge opened Saturday at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park.

Within minutes of the park’s newest attraction opening, recreational scuba divers descended below the surface of the lake for the first time. The lake has long been used by local fire departments and industry for training exercises, but Saturday marked the first time recreational diving opened to the public.

Officials hope the refuge will help the park appeal to a new set of users and boost visitorship along with the local economy. Opened on a three-year trial basis, officials hope the attraction will someday become a permanent addition to the activities available to visitors.

Divers must register at the park’s office and pay a daily fee of $12. The refuge, which averages 25-feet in depth, is open from from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April through October.

Safety guidelines have been established and buoys warn boat traffic away from the area while divers are in the water. Divers must be open-water certified or higher to use the area, or must be accompanied by an instructor with the appropriate certification.The area is open to anglers and boaters when divers are not in the water, as signified by buoys and red and white “diver down” flags.

“I am so excited about this. It has been a long time coming,” said Kentucky State Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker.  Walker was joined by Ron Brooks, director of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, Greenbo Manager Cary Lyle, Greenup County Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter, State Representative Jill York R-Grayson, state Senator Robin Webb D-Grayson, Bobby Allen, executive director of Greenup County Tourism and president of Friends of Greenbo, and friends member Todd Eastham at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“It was a community effort, we involved fish and wildlife. There were community meetings. There was compromise, and I think ultimately people are going to realize what a great thing this is for Greenbo State Resort Park, for our region and for our state,” said Walker.  “I think it’s going to be great for the divers as well as the fisherman,” she added. The refuge did face some opposition for many anglers.

“I think the big benefit of having a three year trial is that there is always fear about what you don’t know. There is speculation about what is going to happen, so I think if you have three years experience you can see what works, what may need to be adjusted a little bit,” said Walker.

“I am hopeful this is going to become a full-time activity here at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park and that we can expand it to some of our other parks. We have people who are diving enthusiasts. We should be able to provide them a safe environment that is compatible with the other water sports and activities,” she said.

Some of the first divers in the water on Saturday were Kyle Morgan, Scott Porter and Stephanie Flaugher, with the Grayson Volunteer Fire Department.

“It is good to see it finally opened up,” said Morgan, who noted the trio had helped with previous clean ups in preparation for the refuge opening. “Today will just be for recreation,” he said.

Morgan said the department’s diving team has had to travel up to six hours in the past for training. “It’s great to be able to have this here, 15 minutes from your backdoor,” he said.

“It is great to have it close to home,” agreed Porter, “I think it’s going to be a great asset to Greenbo lake and to the whole region and area.”

“There are a lot of divers here in this area,” added Flaugher, noting she has friends and neighbors who also travel long distances to dive.

To help entice divers to the park, Greenbo began offering special packages for accommodations. For $77 per person, Friday through Sunday, individuals receive a one-day Scuba pass, one night lodging, a continental breakfast and lunch. From Sunday through Thursday the same package costs $66.50 per person.

For more information, call the park at (800) 325-0083.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.

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