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Users' opinions differ on improving canal park

July 19, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

o What do you think should would draw more tourists to towns along the C&O Canal? Vote in our online poll.

WILLIAMSPORT -- When officials start talking about making changes along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and the nearby towns, not everyone agrees on what would constitute improvement.

Some users said it would be nice to have more businesses that cater to C&O Canal tourists.

But they stress it has to be done carefully.

The Herald-Mail on a recent afternoon talked to people on the towpath near Williamsport about what changes they would like to see -- or not see.

Although it was a weekday, the towpath was busy with users from such far-flung places as Germany and South Carolina.

Tom Oliver of Williamsport, who often runs on the C&O Canal towpath, said he believes there should be places where users can get camping gear.

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More variety in eating places also is needed, Oliver said. He frequently sees people roaming through Williamsport looking for a place to eat.

"It would be nice if there was a place a little closer," said Oliver, motioning toward the Cushwa turning basin at the entrance to the C&O Canal off West Potomac Street.

Wolfgang Eberhardt and Kai Braehler, co-workers who live in Germany, were riding bikes and had an immediate need.

"You know what we need now?" Eberhardt said. "A campground with showers."

The men couldn't find one and asked to be pointed in the right direction.

Tim Fredericks of Arlington, Va., said he worried about the possibility that officials would go overboard with campgrounds, showers and the like. Such facilities, he said, have a tendency to attract rowdy people.

Fredericks said he has been visiting the area for 35 years to enjoy the canal and likes seeing the scenery and historic landmarks that make the area appear much as it did in the 1800s and 1900s.

"I guess I'm more of a traditionalist," said Fredericks, who said he and his wife stay at a motel in Williamsport when they come to the canal.

Johnny Henderson, who previously lived in South Carolina but who has been working in the area, said it would be great to see the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport re-watered. Campgrounds with showers also sounded like a good idea to him.

But Henderson said he would hate to see too many amenities crop up near the towpath.

Steve Baxter, who has been living in Hagerstown for about a year, said he likes to explore the canal and the towns along it.

Baxter said he would like to see some amenities along the trail, perhaps every 15 to 20 miles, where users would have access to snack bars.

"I think you could get world attention to it," Baxter said.

But Baxter said officials need to be careful not to turn the towpath into "Niagara Falls. I'm always leery of over-commercialization," said Baxter, as he prepared to mount his bicycle near the Cushwa turning basin.

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