Divers Clean Up Litter at the Bottom of Party Cove
After the storms ended Saturday morning, a group of volunteer divers suited up by Baja BBQ Shack at Canyon Lake Marina then slipped beneath the waters of Party Cove to clean up the murky mess tossed overboard by hundreds of careless swimmers and boaters.
They filled 30 bags of trash with anchors, cans, iPhones, beer bottles, old sunglasses — the usual — but found none of the lost treasures accidentally tossed overboard and sought by their owners, such as a designer set of aviator glasses.
Divers help reunite partygoers with their stuff when they can, but Stone Oak resident Andrew Long said sifting through silt 45 feet beneath the surface of Canyon Lake isn’t easy. Their real focus is picking up trash.
He and brother Austin, a Canyon Lake resident, film these forays for their Youtube channel, 9 Mile Bros.
They’re both military veterans who grew up in San Antonio and spent a lot of time visiting the lake with family.
Long said he doesn’t have a “favorite” part of Canyon Lake. He loves diving it, “finding things” and fishing.
A member of Canyon Lake Divers Facebook group, he encourages other divers to suit up and join in the mission of keeping underwater Canyon Lake beautiful.
With the help of his Youtube Channel, Long said he would like to eventually travel the world, ridding other underwater realms of litter.
“We kind of encourage people to follow in our footsteps,” he said. “We’d like to get more people out there, cleaning up.”
“All You Hear Is Your Bubbles”
Meanwhile, over at the Guadalupe River, Mikey Johnson, a Seguin resident whose mother and brother live in Canyon Lake, has been diving the Guadalupe River for two years, filling hundreds of trash bags and delighting small children who can’t believe their eyes when he surfaces.
He helped organized the outing, with the help of other divers, because Saturday was his birthday. Johnson hopes anyone who reads this article will present him with gifts of community service and a commitment to keeping the bottom of Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River trash-free.
“The clean up went very well,” he said. “I was very happy with the outcome. This was the first of many cleanups that we will be doing. It’s so awesome to have so much fun doing something that you love and at the same time can make such an impact on our community and our lake. Saturday by far was the best birthday I have ever had.”
Johnson said you don’t have to dive to help out, either. It’s hard to step out of the water in a wet suit, weighted down by heavy gear, and divers appreciate having volunteers to carry the trash off for them.
Canyon Lake is one of the few major lakes in Central Texas without a regular team of divers who can commit to scouring lake bottoms for trash or, sometimes, even missing engagement rings. Divers always try to help out when contacted by a remorseful water-lover desperate to be reunited with their personal property.
Last Thursday, Johnson received a call from a production crew for Youtuber “Man Plus River.” He spent Friday working as safety diver while the team explored Lake McQueeney.
On Saturday he awoke to dark skies and worried whether anyone would turn out to support the Party Cove cleanup.
“We were able to make it happen,” he said. “None of this is to be done with just one person. It takes a community pulling together to keep our environment the way we need it. I want my kids and grandkids to have the same experience growing up as we did.”
Johnson warns that diving for trash is actually addictive.
“Once you get to diving and you dive down and you find your first cellphone or you pick up your first piece of trash, by the time you get it in the bag you can already see another piece,” he said. “And you go to it. And the next thing you know your gauges are going off, telling you that you’ve run out of air. It’s just a whole new world. It’s a different kind of an environment. It’s an awesome kind of stress relief. You don’t hear the distractions of the world. All you hear is your bubbles.”
He’s spent the last two years swimming up and down the Guadalupe. Headed away from the dam he fills bags with trash and sets them on the bank for his return trip, when he swims against the current, towing an inner tube that he uses to transport his bounty safely to trash cans.
Johnson said he averages six to seven bags every run, but has filled as many as 16 bags during one trip.
Trash builds up where people congregate, he said. On the Horseshoe, tubers who float past the first bend to the right like to take a break along a shallow rocky area. Another popular spot is just past Party Rock, where the water is shallower and there are a few beach spots.
“This is where the masses gather to take a break from floating the river some,” Johnson said. “They get their sandwiches out, do lunch, and I find sandwich bags, cans and bottles.”
Diving for beer bottles may not be glamorous but it’s surprisingly peaceful and more fulfilling, for him, than the old days of riding motorcycles and pulling into bars.
“It’s one of my ways to cope and get over my alcohol addiction,” he said. “I truly believe that there’s way more benefits to my hobby that you would enjoy. And it keeps you active, it keeps you outdoors.”
One diver’s trash is quite possibly another recreationalist’s treasure, so Johnson treats everything he finds with respect, including cellphones.
He’s purchased phones from every major carrier so that he can slip the sim cards of submerged phones into his, restoring treasured images and contact lists to owners who took chances on tubing, boating and swimming with $1,000 phones.