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Officials mull operation of boats on canal near Hancock

May 12, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

HANCOCK -- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park officials are considering operating boats on a watered section of the canal near Hancock.

The boats would be similar to the recreational boats that were popular on the canal at the end of the 19th century, according to William T. Justice, chief of interpretation for the C&O Canal.

The boats were smaller than shipping boats and usually were steam- or electric-powered, Justice said.

Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the C&O Canal, talked about the plans for boats Tuesday in Hancock when officials were opening a new town museum that will feature exhibits from the former Sideling Hill Exhibit Center.

After the museum was opened, town officials led a crowd to the Western Maryland Rail Trail to talk about improvements there and planned improvements to the canal.

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Justice said after Tuesday's ceremonies that plans for the boats were in the early stages and that it was unclear how many of them there might be.

During Tuesday's ceremony, canal officials said they also will open a new visitors center at a historic farmhouse along the canal about one mile east of town.

The C&O Canal has operated a visitors center along Main Street and, while it attracted motorists, few trail users like bicyclists stopped in, canal officials said.

The new visitors center, which will operate in what is called the Bowles House, will open around Memorial Day, park officials said.

Brandt also announced that a culvert near downtown, known as Historic Culvert 182, will be repaired at a cost of about $940,000. The culvert repairs are needed to eliminate a dip in the towpath as it passes over the culvert.

Brandt also said ground probably would be broken this summer for an approximately $17 million project on an eroded stretch of the canal south of Williamsport, known as Big Slackwater.

Because of the erosion in that section of the canal, walkers and bicyclists have had to use a roughly 4.5-mile detour on local roads with no shoulders, creating safety problems, canal officials said.

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