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Stimulus money might be used for eroded C&O Canal section

March 16, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A push is continuing to repair the eroded Big Slackwater section of C&O Canal National Historical Park, the only gap in the trail between Georgetown and Cumberland, Md.

Erosion of the trail in the Big Slackwater area downstream from Williamsport has forced hikers and bicyclists to use an unsafe 4.7-mile detour on public roads, officials said.

It is hoped the Big Slackwater area can be restored using money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- the federal stimulus package -- according to the C&O Canal Association.

To be considered for that funding, an environmental assessment must be completed on the proposed project, according to the association.

Such an assessment is required to make sure federal projects do not threaten the environment, said Ned Preston, spokesman for the association.

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To get the assessment completed, the association donated $25,000 to the National Park Service for the work, the association said in a news release.

If the $25,000 does not cover the cost of the environmental assessment, the association has reserve funds to help pay for the work, said Adrienne Gude, another spokesperson for the association.

If the project gets federal stimulus funding for the restoration, it is hoped it could be finished by 2012, Preston said.

The C&O Canal was a shipping canal in the 19th century, and was a lifeline for communities and businesses along the route. It is now a national park attracting bicyclists and hikers as it passes by local towns like Williamsport, Sharpsburg and Hancock in Maryland, and Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown in West Virginia.

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