By strapping on scuba gear, divers are able to experience the glorious underwater world of aquatic creatures, vegetation … and litter. Steve Lockhart — who co-owns Scuba Steve's Aquatic Adventure in Tyler, Texas, with his wife Laura — wants to take the cans, bottles and abandoned fishing equipment out of the picture. Through his dive shop, Lockhart is sponsoring the second annual Trash Fest and Treasure Hunt, a lake clean-up for scuba divers, snorkelers and the Tyler community, with proceeds going to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.
“This event is a culmination of things we do all the time,” says Lisa Losack, a registered nurse by day and dive master with Scuba Steve's. “We respect the underwater environment, and we want it to be pristine and natural. So anytime we are out diving if we see things that shouldn't be there, we pick them up.”
The concept for the June event began as a typical clean-up of the lake in Tyler State Park where Lockhart — who has been diving for 35 years — and his crew frequently dive. To attract more divers, he added an underwater treasure hunt in which participants search for weights attached to above-water foam floats that hold numbers corresponding to a master prize list. A Scuba Steve's dive instructor, who is also a Scottish Rite Mason, suggested that the money raised be donated to the hospital, making the event much larger than Lockhart had anticipated.
Last year, 130 divers and snorkelers attended the event, raising $3,500 and sprucing up the swimming area and surrounding area. A number of land-lovers from the community attended the event as well and took part in face-painting and other family activities. “There were a lot of people who attended who were not divers that came out just to support the charity,” Lockhart says.
This year, Lockhart is expanding the event to cover nearly half of the 64-acre lake. Participants — who are required to have a diving plan for safety purposes — will be given 30 minutes to collect litter from the lake and one hour or 500 pounds of air pressure for the treasure hunt. An on-land hunt and a dessert contest are new additions this year.
In anticipation of the event, in May, Lockhart helped two of the hospital's young patients experience the sport he finds addictive. A boy born without thumbs and a quadriplegic first were fitted with snorkeling equipment and then graduated to breathing off of scuba regulators and searching for prizes in a pool. “To say the least, it was challenging but it was also very rewarding,” Lockhart says.