Canal For All

About the Program
Through programs like Canal For All, the C&O Canal Trust works in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) to provide opportunities for education, stewardship, and volunteerism that are safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all. To foster diversity and to better reflect our community, our program engages BIPOC, differently-abled, LGBTQIA+, and other underrepresented or disadvantaged communities. We partner with community organizations to diminish barriers to participation and to create exciting and relevant opportunities to Play, Learn, Serve, and Work in the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP).

Building the Canal For All Program began in 2016 with personal interviews engaging community groups and leaders. The C&O Canal Trust surveyed local needs and interests and researched similar programs throughout the country. Initial programming was offered in Montgomery County. Some of our initial program partners included Community Bridges, Identity, and Montgomery County’s TeenWorks and Conservation Jobs Corps (CJC) programs.

Today, the program has grown to serve hundreds of participants each year in Montgomery and Washington Counties as we continue to build on successful interactions with community groups in the C&O Canal NHP. Youth and adult groups come to a variety of locations to explore the natural and historical resources the Park has to offer. Time spent in National Parks enriches the lives of visitors, and in turn, visitors ensure that National Park treasures are protected for future generations.  As we welcome a diverse group of visitors into the C&O Canal NHP, we strengthen our communities today and for the future.

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie


Recreate, explore, and enjoy the C&O Canal

Hands-on history brings the past alive! Groups enjoy activities that help introduce them to the Park’s historical and natural resources.

Activities to date include:

  • Arts or crafts
  • Canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board rentals
  • Early American games
  • Journaling or descriptive writing
  • Photography
  • Rock climbing

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie


Learn about the Park’s history and nature

Groups learn through outdoor recreation and educational workshops including “Camping 101” and “Design Your Own Adventure.” Interpretive programs increase environmental literacy and engage groups in canal history.

Activities to date include:

  • Erosion, evidence of human impact or climate change, etc.
  • Geology
  • Guided hike or bike ride
  • Historical tour or role-playing (“Be a Lock Keeper for a Day”)
  • Outdoor exploration preparation and safety
  • Vegetation and animal identification

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie


Give back through volunteer service

Environmental stewardship opportunities allow groups to appreciate and help preserve the unique ecosystem and history of the Park.

Activities to date include:

  • Removing litter
  • Removing invasive plant species
  • Painting structures
  • Weeding and mulching in target areas
  • Removing vegetation from the canal prism or other structures
  • Filling potholes on the towpath
  • Removing graffiti

Photo by Francis Grant-Suttie


Gain job skills and career development opportunities

We partner with the Montgomery County Department of Recreation’s Teenworks program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Conservation Jobs Corps (CJC) program to provide participants with opportunities to gain job skills and learn about the National Park Service as a career path.

“There were many impactful moments for our participants. Whenever we went hiking they shared how much they enjoyed being outside and in nature. They were in awe of all of the beautiful views along the river. They also learned about different species and hiking safety! They loved sharing the facts they learned after their guided hike.” 

– Molly Lynch, Community Bridges Middle School Program Manager

Program Partners

  • Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle
  • Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington
  • Boys & Girls Club of Washington County
  • Child & Youth Program, Army National Guard
  • Community Bridges
  • Girls Inc. of Washington County
  • Girls Who Hike NoVA
  • Journey Through Hallowed Ground: Extreme Bike Camp
  • Montgomery County TeenWorks Program
  • Outdoor Afro
  • PALS Program, PALS DC
  • PeaceJam American University
  • PeaceJam Mid-Atlantic
  • TEENS Inc.
  • Upward Bound Program, Hagerstown Community College