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Hancock's Berm Road reopens

July 07, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - The end of some projects and the beginning of others were celebrated Friday morning along the C&O Canal National Historical Park at the Little Tonoloway picnic area.

Washington County Commissioners Vice President Terry Baker, whose grandfather was born on a canal boat, and National Park Service employee Bradley Hofe, whose great-grandfather was the keeper of Lock 58, were there.

They joined other dignitaries in a ceremony for the newly restored Berm Road, which was heavily damaged by several storms that forced the road to be closed the past few years.

The restoration project cost more than a half-million dollars.

The C&O Canal visitors center in Hancock was in danger of closing, said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Through a partnership between the town, its chamber of commerce, county government, the convention and visitors bureau and the C&O Canal park leadership, the center will stay open and have a uniformed ranger over the summer, park Superintendent Kevin Brandt said Friday.

Brandt said that a $15,000 Challenge Cost Share grant will help pay for a study on a new shared visitors center in downtown Hancock.

Riford said the current visitors center is leased, so a new site is the goal.

In addition to the extensive road repairs, bicycle-friendly gates have been installed along the canal, and the canal itself has been rewatered.

Brandt had a picture of what the new full-service restrooms will look like when they are built in the picnic area at an estimated cost of $50,000.

"These are tremendous assets to our community," Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy said.

Residents and tourists have missed the Berm Road access for the past 2 1/2 years, he said.

Brandt said he has a dream that vacant lockhouses along the canal can be rehabilitated for visitors to use for overnight stays.

"We're realizing the dreams of George Washington and Justice William O. Douglas," Brandt said.

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