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I had vaguely remembered a friend (and fellow diver) telling me about an awesome park that used to be there, and then it was destroyed, and the people who own/maintain the area became super-restrictive. I also seem to remember something about performers and underwater glass viewing areas.
I guess to be a little more blunt, it seems like $285 and then free labor seems exploitative. And if the maintainers are essentially hoarding it, that's just that much worse.
The most significant factor to authorizing dives in Spring Lake is the number of endangered species and the regulations imposed by US Fish and Wildlife. Even when I took the class the majority of it wasn't about diving the lake and techniques that you could use to maintain it. Most of the time was spent scaring the hell out of you for running afoul of Fish.
We used to use scooters to move algae and when you get the drill down a diver can do 2-3 hours of hand work in 20-30 minutes. Then one of the staff divers blew all the sand out of Cream of Wheat (which we had to replace). An inappropriate area to use scooters, but we could still use them in the Training Area, Riverbed, the northern end of Deep Hole and Archsite. Currently scooter use is not allowed. The less said about the use of machetes on coonstail the better.
The funniest example of out of control regulation was on the first dive after "deconstruction". The dive barge had to take us to the site, Cream of Wheat. Not a problem, better than walking from the north parking lot. Out of the water, the dive barge is no where to be seen, so we walk back. The director of the Meadows Center see us from his office and pitches a bitch. How dare we walk on the paths in the park.
From my side of the hill, $285 is a bit much. But the operation is now run by academics and foundations. Their view of reality is a bit different from my perspective.