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C&O Canal Trust to raise money for park near Williamsport

November 02, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT - With almost half of the C&O Canal running through Washington County, area officials said the community has an interest in maintaining its heritage and making some improvements.

The C&O Canal Trust formed in February, and on Thursday it was introduced to the community as a fundraising body for the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The nonprofit organization also will work to protect, restore and promote the park, which spans 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C.

The organization was introduced during a two-hour event at Cushwa Basin in Williamsport.

"There is so much history here," said Kevin Brandt, park superintendent with the National Park Service.

He said that part of the nonprofit's mission is to reconnect the community to the canal and the history of the area.

Matthew Logan, president of the C&O Canal Trust, said the nonprofit, which has an 11-member board, is able to do some things that the National Park Service cannot. Promotion, advertising and marketing of the park will be some of the group's functions.

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Another will be to go to Annapolis and other areas to advocate for the park, Logan said. Helping with programs and raising funds from private donors also will be priorities.

The nonprofit already has raised some money at a fundraiser, and has several benefactors, according to board members.

Logan said the park receives about $10 million - 37 percent of the funds needed to operate. Part of the organization's mission is to find a way to raise the remainder of the needed money.

County Commissioners President John F. Barr said the C&O Canal Trust is a welcome asset to the park and the community.

The park draws 3.1 million visitors annually, 600,000 of those to Washington County, officials said during Thursday's event. Those visitors bring $9 million in revenue to the county.

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said the C&O Canal is important to the town, and that the Canal Trust will be an important part of revitalization there. He said that town officials would like to see the number of visitors to the canal double.

"That's more people visiting our hotels and restaurants," McCleaf said.

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