Park Service prefers extensive renovations for C&O Canal in Williamsport

June 28, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • The C&O Canal at Cushwa Basin in Williamsport
The C&O Canal at Cushwa Basin in Williamsport

WILLIAMSPORT — Among four alternatives for restoring parts of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Williamsport, National Park Service officials prefer the one that includes the most extensive renovations.

National Park Service officials made the announcement Tuesday night during a public meeting in the Williamsport Community Building in Byron Memorial Park.

The preferred plan, Alternative 2, calls for restoration of the Conococheague Aqueduct to how it was in the 1920s and includes the rehabilitation of the “trunk” of the aqueduct so it can hold water.

With the aqueduct restored, boats for tourists would be able to cross it and go through nearby Lock 44, under the plan.

The plan also calls for restoring a Western Maryland railroad lift bridge; rehabilitation of Lock House 44 to reflect the 1920s; rehabilitation of the Cushwa Warehouse; enhancements to the Cushwa Basin area; and rehabilitation of the trolley building, which was used to generate power for a trolley car system in town.
Towns along the C&O Canal in Maryland and West Virginia are trying to capitalize on growing numbers of visitors to the park, which features a towpath where mules once pulled canal boats filled with coal and other supplies.
Today, the towpath along the Potomac River is filled with visitors, including hundreds of bicyclists.
In August 2009, national park officials held a meeting to lay out their plans for the canal in Williamsport.  At that time, park officials said they would make an environmental assessment that would examine issues like public safety, noise and infrastructure changes as a result of the plans.
The environmental assessment has been completed. C&O Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt said Tuesday that park service officials could decide by the end of the year which alternative to pursue for Williamsport.

Brandt said he does not know how much Alternative 2 proposals would cost, and most of the money would have to come from Congress.

Given the federal government’s challenging fiscal outlook, Brandt said he is “not as optimistic as I had been” in funding for the project.

Brandt said that some changes to the park in Williamsport could occur next summer.

Seven people attended Tuesday’s meeting, including Dick Ebersole of Hagerstown who asked if there were any plans to increase concessions for the increasing number of biking and hiking enthusiasts who use the canal.

Brandt said park officials intentionally left concessions out of the plan, hoping those services can be provided in Williamsport.

“We have a good working relationship with the town of Williamsport,” Brandt said.

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