The Leon County Sheriff's Office is warning the public to stay awayfrom a sinkhole where two young men drowned earlier this year.
Church Sink, located near Crawfordville and Shelfer roads, has long been a popular swimming and cave-diving spot.
Butsince the two deaths, the owner of the property, former Leon CountyCommissioner Lee Vause, has put up "no trespassing" signs and filed atrespass-warning letter with LCSO allowing deputies to conduct routinepatrols. He's also working with volunteers who will be cleaning up thesinkhole and surrounding property starting today.
Vause,who served on the County Commission from 1972 to 1992, said he hopespeople will stay off the roughly 18-acre site that he's owned fordecades.
"They have no business in there," he said. "It's private property. They're trespassing. They can go in there and get hurt."
Lt.Tony Drzewiecki, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said anyonefound on the property without permission will be issued a trespassingwarning the first time and subject to arrest the second time.
"Theproperty owner has made it clear that he does not want peopletrespassing on his property," he said. "And we will certainly doeverything we can to assist him."
DominiqueHollis, 24, drowned May 19 at the sinkhole, and Donaje Brown, 19, diedJune 22. In both cases, the men were swimming with a group of friendswhen they became distressed and went under, investigators have said.
"It'svery regrettable that they lost their lives going on the property ...without any permission and without any safeguards apparently," Vausesaid.
The sinkholeitself is about 18 to 20 feet deep, though it connects with anunderwater cave system with about 1,500 feet of passageway, said SteveCushman, co-owner of the Cave Connection dive shop in Crawfordville andan active member of both the Wakulla County Dive Club and the AquaticScience Association.
Locateddown a steep clay embankment, Church Sink once was in pristinecondition. But its waters appeared murky green earlier this week and theland around it was littered with trash. The sinkhole itself is chokedwith junk from bicycles to old tires and carpet, Cushman said.
Today,members of the Dive Club and the ASA will begin cleaning up theproperty and the sinkhole. Local businesses donated dumpsters and heavyequipment to help, Cushman added.
"We'rebasically trying to restore it to its natural state," he said. "All thepollutants that go in the water end up in other systems downstream.What people really don't realize is these sinkholes are the windows tothe aquifer, and that's where we get all our drinking water."