Wakulla County, Florida- September 5, 2012
Jorge Hess has been a leader in the movement to allow recreational diving at Wakulla Springs. For the past 26 years, diving has been prohibited at the spring.
The Florida Park Service announced Tuesday public cave diving will not be allowed at Wakulla Springs.
"I'm really disappointed. Clearly, we had a great opportunity to reach a compromise and that has now been completely rejected," said Hess.
"The critical decision process of the Florida Park Service is to balance resource recreation with the protection of the resource," said Peter Scalco, park manager at Wakulla Springs.
A public hearing was held back in January. After months of weighing the pros and cons, park officials say preservation and safety were key factors in their decision.
Park officials say the cave's 185 foot deep entrance and 300 foot depth are a hazard to divers.
"They're still living in the past. They're still worried about the way diving was done ten or twenty years ago," said Gregg Stanton, owner of Wakulla Diving Center.
As for preservation, divers say they are no more of a threat than the boats that travel the river or the thousands of people that visit the park each year..
"We're here to stay. We can't just be ignored. Everybody, all the world's eyes are on Wakulla and they wanna see progress. And it's gonna happen," said Hess.
Recreational diving is allowed at three other caves within the park.