'It gets pretty ugly out there'

Divers make annual plunge to collect trash from bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene

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Blaine Leonard, top left, and his younger brother Garrett Leonard, top right, admire scuba divers Matt Hebener, bottom left, and Paul Schwartz, bottom right, as they prepare to go underwater.

COEUR d'ALENE - The pile of trash mounted at the Third Street boat launch near the base of Tubbs Hill had passersby marveling in disgust.

Some would stop and frown, some whistled to show they were impressed, yet others just shook their heads as they hoofed by to the hiking trails.

All of them, though, noticed.

Soda cans, beer cans - lots of beer cans - a grill, a shoe sole, glass bottles and, well, more beer cans - the collection came from the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

"People just don't understand what they do when they throw things in the lake," Brian Meehan said as he stopped to take in the heaping sight. "I'm sure that's just a tiny, tiny portion of it, unfortunately."

Meehan's right, it's just a sample, pulled out by 10 good-willed scuba divers Sunday on an underwater trash collection trip organized by the diving business, Tom's Diving Adventures.

"It gets pretty ugly out there," said Tim McCall, owner of the diving business.

But, he added, every little bit helps.

And while the annual diving tradition, in it's ninth year now, can't clean every speck off the lake bottom, divers do get a satisfaction knowing they've played a part in beautifying the body of water locals - not to mention tourists - hold so dear.

Plus, they said, it's fun. Any reason to get underwater is a good one. Who knew chores could be so fun?

"I hate to say it, but it was a blast," said Kay Stephens, on retrieving can after underwater can, which divers collected in sacks and then dumped into one big above-surface pile. "Isn't that ridiculous?"

Divers stuck to the marina area, reaching depths of 20 feet or so. Seeing the lake from below gives a person a completely different outlook, they said.

There are automobiles sunk down there, boats too, of course, and funny how divers find lots of articles of clothing around the base of Tubbs Hill - leftovers from striping down and jumping in, perhaps.

"There's a sailboat out there and one of the hydroplanes," McCall said, pointing out toward the water. "Well, a shell of it."

While a beer can is less impressive, bring up enough of them and you could have the size of a Buick or, heaven forbid, a yacht.

"You think, 'It's just one can, just one bottle,'" Meehan said, looking down at the heap of trash. "And then look at that."

David Phillips dumps a pile of trash he collected while scuba diving in Lake Coeur dŐAlene near the Third Street Marina. The lake bottom cleanup was organized by TomŐs Diving Adventures.

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