Area national parks win grants for upgrades

July 07, 2011|By MAEGAN CLEARWOOD |
  • Cyclists ride past Lock 44 on the C&O Canal in Williamsport in this June 16, 2009 file photo.
Cyclists ride past Lock 44 on the C&O Canal in Williamsport in this June 16, 2009 file photo.

HAGERSTOWN — After months of anticipation, three Maryland national parks have had their grant applications accepted, and the National Park Foundation is giving the parks a total of $39,700 toward improvements and learning projects.

According to a press release, the NPF is giving Antietam National Battlefield $18,250 to build new trails through the Active Trails Grant. The NPF is also giving $11,000 to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and $10,450 to the Catoctin Mountain Park through Park Stewards Grants.

Antietam National Battlefield Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof said the park will put the money toward development of two new trails.

“At least since I’ve been here, we haven’t put in for any grants, so we didn’t know how competitive they were. We were surprised,” Wenschhof said.

He said the funds will cover labor and construction costs. Some of the funds will also go toward one historical and two natural resource wayside exhibits.

The developments will add another 1 1/2 miles of trail to the 13 miles that have been expanded over the past 10 years, Wenschhof said.

He said the trails should be open by the park’s 150th anniversary this fall, and the Youth Conservation Corps is already hard at work.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park is also wasting no time putting its grant money to use. Chief of Interpretation and Education Bill Justice said the park has been planning a service learning project with Allegany County schools for some time, and the Park Steward Grant is just what they needed to get started.

“We keep track of grants that come up pretty carefully. The neat thing about this project is that the funding came in when we already were working on a project,” Justice said. “You never know with this kind of grant. You put in for a project that’s really great, but you’re competing with a number of other parks. There are 394 different park areas. You don’t know if there’s another, more-creative program out there.”

Students from Allegany County are developing an application park-goers can access called The C&O Canal Video Tour.

“When you think of service-learning projects, you usually think of going into a park to paint or clean up trash. This is very much a service-learning project, but it will have a much longer lifespan than a coat of paint on a park bench.”

Catoctin Mountain Park is also using its Park Stewards Grant toward service learning. The park will partner with schools to provide overnight, educational classes, Interpretive Supervisor Susan Burkes said.

“We were exploring a lot of possibilities with programming. Because of budget cuts, we knew hiring would be at a premium, so we started looking for an alternative solution, started talking to a lot of groups regarding grant opportunities,” she said. “We were hoping to get (the grant) and we’re pleased. We knew we were competitive.”

Burkes said a North Hagerstown High School teacher is in training for the park’s first fall educational program. She said the park has classroom facilities built for overnight stays, but they haven’t been utilized recently.

Educational programs will include environmental education, exotic invasives, overpopulation by wildlife and stream viability, and will be open to any interested school district.

“We’re attempting to bring the classroom back into the park,” Burkes said.

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