$17 million project to replace part of C&O park

Big Slackwater section needs to be reconstructed because of flooding damage

July 18, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

WILLIAMSPORT -- A $17 million project to replace the deteriorated Big Slackwater section of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park will result in an impressive structure that uses a precast deck for a new section of the towpath, a park official said.

The Big Slackwater section of the towpath needs to be reconstructed because of flooding damage over the years and the new structure is needed to protect the towpath from a particularly powerful section of the Potomac River, said William T. Justice, chief of interpretation for the C&O Canal.

Big Slackwater is in a turn on the river and during high water levels on the river, the force of the river directed right at the towpath, Justice said.

The Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, Maine, has been awarded a contract to rebuild the Big Slackwater section of the towpath, which will also involve tree removal and pier installation, according to a news release from the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.


The project will be staffed by Cianbro's regional office in Baltimore.

Most of the difficult construction work will take place from barges anchored on the Potomac River and will involve work along a cliff, the release said.

The project is mostly funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the work represents the largest federal stimulus project of any park in western Maryland, the release said.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m. at the Dam 4 Road park access.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and other officials are expected to attend, the release said.

Built between 1828 and 1850, the C&O Canal once served as a vital transportation line for commerce in the early decades of the nation. Boats hauling goods were pulled along a canal by animals who walked along the route's towpath.

Today, the towpath is a premier destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Big Slackwater section of the towpath downstream from Williamsport eroded following significant floods between 1972 and 1996 and has been closed more than a dozen years, the release said.

An unsafe detour has been a problem for bicyclists and hikers and more than 36 people have been hospitalized, the release said.

Most were struck by vehicles traveling on the detour, the release said.

Portion of C&O park to close for repairs

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park will be closed from milepost 88.1 to 89.21 while the Big Slackwater section of the canal is being rebuilt, according to park officials.

The McMahons Mill area also will be closed during the construction, according to a news release.

Hikers and bikers should use the posted detour route, the release said.

Visitors are encouraged to use the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport or the Dam 4 area for access to the canal, the release said.

If you go

What: Groundbreaking ceremony for project to replace deteriorated Big Slackwater section on the C&O Canal.

When: Saturday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m.

Where: Dam 4 Road park access.

Editor's note: This story was corrected Tuesday, July 20, to correct a source's error which gave wrong information about the location of the Cianbro Corp.

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