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Lockhouse to tell canal's story at turn of 19th century

August 22, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

Williamsport Days in full swing

WILLIAMSPORT -- A refurbished C&O Canal lockhouse near Williamsport soon will open to the public for overnight stays as part of a new interpretive program by the C&O Canal Trust, a canal official said Saturday.

The Canal Quarters program is just one of a number of initiatives under way to better realize the potential of the C&O Canal, including several projects planned for the Williamsport area, said Kevin Brandt, superintendent of C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Brandt was in Williamsport Saturday afternoon to screen a sneak preview of "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," a Ken Burns film scheduled to air on PBS starting Sept. 27. About 20 people attended the screening at the Springfield Farm Barn during Williamsport Days.

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The film does not focus on the C&O Canal, but Brandt said its insights about the importance of national parks are just as relevant to the C&O Canal park.

When most people think of national parks, they think of western parks like Yosemite National Park or the Grand Canyon, but Brandt said C&O Canal National Historical Park is just as important, if not more, in terms of the resources it protects and the stories it has to tell.

The Canal Quarters program is one new project aimed at telling those stories in an interactive way, Brandt said. The program will allow visitors to experience what it was like to live and work along the C&O Canal in a bygone era by viewing photographs and reading accounts written by canal families while staying overnight in one of four lockhouses furnished to evoke different eras in the canal's history.

Lockhouses 22 and 28, in Montgomery and Frederick counties, will reflect what life was like during the establishment of the canal in the 1830s, while Lockhouse 49, at Four Locks, about 10 miles west of Williamsport, will reflect the period around the turn of the 19th century, toward the end of the canal's operations, according to the canal trust's Web site, www.canaltrust.org. Lockhouse 6, in Montgomery County, will tell the story of the campaign to preserve the canal in the 1950s, the Web site says.

Brandt said groups of up to eight people will be able to make reservations for the lockhouses online. The fees have not yet been finalized, he said.

Brandt said he expects the Canal Quarters program to begin by the end of September.

Progress also is under way on repairing a deteriorated 2.7-mile section of the canal south of Williamsport known as Big Slackwater. A drilling rig was moved to the site late last week to begin that project, Brandt said.

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