Lake Forest Park diver helps maintain park

  • Shanti Hahler<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:46am

Bruce Higgins and Ralph Sweet work hard to keep one of Edmonds’ parks in tip-top shape.

Still, much of their work goes unnoticed by land dwellers.

Higgins, 54, and Sweet, 51, are both certified scuba divers and act as underwater stewards for the park. Every Saturday morning, the two men meet a handful of other area divers at Underwater Sports, in Edmonds, to suit up and get to work.

Originally founded in the late ’70s after a pair of diving fatalities in the area, the group was intended to be a safety committee devoted to the specific site, but has grown to be much more over the years.

Some of the group’s projects have included sinking boats to help maintain sea life, cleaning up debris and making the area safe for other divers. They also hosts the annual underwater pumpkin carving contest in October.

“Our focus is on safety, security, maintenance and improvement— that’s the driving force,” Higgins said. “We’re driven by the opportunities that avail themselves.”

The unregistered dive group, with a fluctuating membership of about six people, is not for the faint of heart, said Higgins, who has been involved since it was established in 1976.

“It isn’t a social group – it’s a service organization,” he said. “If they’re not interested in service, we’re not interested in them.”

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have fun.

Sweet, who has been involved with the group since 1997, said he often gets in about 40 dives a year at the Edmonds park. Other dive groups, he said, don’t allow as much time for diving.

“Anytime you’re a diver, you’re always looking for someone to dive with,” Sweet explained. “With Bruce, you’re guaranteed every weekend to get in the water and get wet.”

Many of the underwater attractions at the park were created in part by Sweet and Higgins: Giovanni’s Maze, Sebastien’s Tower and a design made of curb stops that spell out “Alex,” all of which are named for Sweet’s grandchildren. The structures, Sweet said, create a healthy habitat for lingcod, a regular in Puget Sound, and allow divers to safely view marine life.

“In the Southern Puget Sound, you won’t see anything like you do down here,” Sweet said. He added that several weeks ago, a gray whale also was spotted in the area by both divers and beach combers.

Both Higgins and Sweet, who reside in Lake Forest Park and Marysville respectively, said they could not do the work they do in the park without the support of staff at Underwater Sports and the Edmonds Parks and Recreation department.

“It’s been a very cooperative effort,” Higgins said. “It’s not financial support, though, they just understand what we’re up to.”

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