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New Superintendent Tina Cappetta Previews Her Vision for the C&O Canal

Tina Cappetta took up the position of Superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) in January 2020, following nine years as Superintendent of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Hampton National Historic Site, and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. Over her 30-year National Park Service career, she has held positions in 10 parks around the nation, including at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York, where she was the superintendent. From 2002 to 2004, she was Chief of Resources at the C&O Canal NHP.

The C&O Canal Trust is the philanthropic partner of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. What experience do you have working with philanthropic partners in your past positions?

As superintendent of Fort McHenry, I worked closely with the Friends of Fort McHenry, a group under the umbrella of Living Classrooms, which worked to preserve the historical legacy of the Fort through living history, education programs, and the development of interpretive facilities. They were key to our ability to provide educational programming along the Star Spangled Banner Trail which included both a water and land trail. I also worked with Historic Hampton on programming at the Hampton Mansion. I look forward to working with both the C&O Canal Trust, Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern, and Georgetown Heritage for the benefit of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

What changes have you seen in the Park since you served as Chief of Resources here at the Canal (from 2002 to 2004)?

A lot of wonderful big preservation projects have taken place over the past 16 years – restoration of three aqueducts, the rehabbing of seven lockhouses and the creation of the Canal Quarters program, restoration of the towpath at Big Slackwater, and the Georgetown project and Locks 5 through 22, to name a few. We have lost some ground, however, in some of the daily stuff. The Park has far fewer staff now than it did in the early 2000s, which has really impacted both day-to-day maintenance and interpretation programming. When I was here before, there were boat programs at both Georgetown and Great Falls, although there were no boats at Williamsport. Fortunately, we will see boats back in both Georgetown and Great Falls in the near future.

What are your priorities in the Park?

I look forward to working with Park staff to complete a number of big projects already underway: the move of the Park headquarters to Williamsport and the proposed reinterpretation of Cushwa Basin, the Park improvements and new boat program in Georgetown, towpath resurfacing, and the renewal of the boat program in Great Falls. I also look forward to focusing on getting back to the basics of the Park’s essential mission by making sure that we have the resources and staff to safely serve the public and preserve the Park.

What can the C&O Canal Trust do to help you meet these priorities?

The Trust can bring new resources to the table and build awareness of the need for public stewardship of our Park. It already does this through Canal Quarters and its other programs, but in the coming years we are going to need more and more human and financial resources to supplement and complement what the National Park Service is able to do. The Trust has the capacity to be more nimble and flexible than the NPS in both accessing funds and spending them and it can more easily develop creative synergies to bring a donors and stakeholders together to support the Park’s mission. As our primary ambassador out there in the world, the Trust provides the means by which those who love the Park can contribute directly to its preservation.