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Scuba club formed in Williamson, Pa.

August 26, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

WILLIAMSON, Pa. - Learning how to scuba dive isn't the first thing that comes to mind traveling through this tiny rural village, which sits on Pa. 995 between Chambersburg, Pa., and Greencastle, Pa.

But Ed Vymazal, 50, a diving instructor and owner of Cumberland Scuba in Shippensburg, Pa., plans to change that image when he opens Williamson Scuba Club next month, making it Franklin County's scuba hub.

"Sure, it would be nice to go to the Caribbean every weekend," said Vymazal, a retired diver on the Pennsylvania State Police Underwater Recovery Team.

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But in this area, divers have to settle for lakes, rivers and abandoned stone quarries like the one in Williamson, which Vymazal is turning into a scuba diving instruction center.

"There is an interest around here. There are quite a few divers but very few local places to dive. It's hard to get a hold of a quarry to dive in simply because of the liability," he said.

Through a 10-year lease agreement with quarry owner Steve Shelly, Vymazal has cleaned up the rocky property where limestone was mined in the early 1900s. Once abandoned as a mine, the property was turned into a salvage yard where junked buses, cars and thousands of tires were scrapped.

In the 1980s, a company tried to drain the spring-fed rectangular 75-by-530-yard quarry for use as a dump for ash from incinerators in Baltimore. But it couldn't be pumped dry.

Next month, Vymazal will move his scuba operation from Shippensburg, though he'll still maintain an office there, to the quarry in Williamson.

"This will let me expand a little," he said, gesturing to a series of buildings that will be used as classrooms, an office and small retail center, and for equipment rentals, supplies and maintenance.

His plans in the beginning are to take on private diving students and to run specialty classes at the quarry, which holds relatively clear, cold water, teeming with bass and sunfish, reaching a maximum depth of 90 feet.

"If you can dive in a quarry, you can basically dive anywhere," Vymazal said, adding that learning in a quarry has its advantages because it's contained, yet more interesting than a swimming pool.

To become diving certified, students will receive 11 hours of classroom instruction and take a written exam. Students also have to complete 10 to 15 hours of water time, which is evaluated by the instructor, and perform five open water dives.

Vymazal said he hopes to operate the club year-round, explaining that scuba diving can be enjoyed just as much in the winter as in the warmer months.

"In the fall and winter the water is cleaner because the algae doesn't bloom," he said.

Vymazal learned to dive when he was stationed in California while he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968. When he returned to Pennsylvania, he became certified in diving and joined the Pennsylvania State Police in 1973, working out of the Chambersburg barracks until retiring in 1990.

Vymazal has traveled all over the world to dive and has worked with ecological diving teams.

He also teaches underwater video and photography and has done consulting for attorneys on diving accidents.

For more information on the diving club, call 1-717-369-3250.

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