‘Lockhouse 44 Parking Lot Looking Into the Canal’ by Ellen Kinzer
Daily life has changed in drastic ways over the past month. But what has rapidly become apparent is how much the local community loves the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders are keeping us cloistered, but allowances for exercise have sent thousands of people to the towpath for hiking, biking, stress relief, and an escape from the tedium of quarantine.
Unfortunately, this influx of visitation is placing unanticipated stress on the Park’s infrastructure at a time when only mission-critical National Park Service staff is currently working in the Park. Additional dangers loom as visitors are not always practicing social distancing, wearing their masks, or removing their trash from the Park at the end of their stays.
Our Canal Pride events, which in a typical year would be happening now, have been postponed. Aimed at helping the Park ready itself for spring, Canal Pride volunteers paint buildings and campsite amenities, pull invasive plants, spread mulch, and pick up the trash that accumulated over the winter months. We are hopeful that we will be able to hold these events when it again becomes safe to gather. At that time, our park lands will need the tender love and care that our corps of volunteers bring to each Canal Pride event.
We have also shuttered our Canal Quarters lockhouse program during the quarantine, and our volunteer Quartermasters, who care for the lockhouses on a regular basis, have had to stand down. As we move into what would be our busy season, we are missing the visitors who bring life and joy to these lockhouses. We are also feeling the sharp loss of revenue for this important preservation initiative. Guest fees for lockhouse stays support the continued preservation of the lockhouses, and, without this revenue, our ability to care for these historic homes is decreased. But we continue to perform essential routine care and maintenance of the structures and outdoor areas, and each lockhouse will be thoroughly cleaned before the program resumes.
From our homes, we continue to work closely and collaboratively with our National Park Service colleagues to assist them in weathering this storm. Our first priority is always the health and safety of our visitors, volunteers, and staff, but we also remain focused on our core mission of preserving and protecting the Park, confident that those who love the C&O Canal will continue to contribute generously to its wellbeing. The best way to show your gratitude is by investing in the preservation of the Park with a gift to the C&O Canal Trust. With your financial support, we will continue to work on your behalf today and into the future to keep the C&O Canal safe, welcoming, and well-cared-for.
Changes in Park Operations
As of May 27, 2020. Subject to change.
- All Visitor Centers are closed.
- Parking lots at Great Falls, Fletchers Cove, Carderock, and Anglers are closed.
- Reservation Only Campgrounds – beginning to open at Antietam Creek, McCoys Ferry, 15-Mile Creek, Paw Paw, Spring Gap. Campsites must be reserved through www.recreation.gov. These facilities will have every other site open in order to encourage social distancing. Please bring your own water as pump handles will not be replaced and turned on at this time. Restrooms will be cleaned twice weekly. Please bring your own hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper as these items have been the subject of theft.
- Hiker-bike Campsites – open in Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties (Calico Rocks to Evitts Creek). Please bring your own water as pump handles will not be replaced and turned on at this time. Restrooms may be open and will be cleaned twice weekly. Please bring your own hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper as these items have been the subject of theft.
- Restrooms, Vault Toilets, and Portable Toilets – beginning to open at campgrounds, boat ramps, and day use areas in Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties. Restrooms will be cleaned twice weekly. Please bring your own hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper as these items have been the subject of theft.
- Water Fountains and Wells – beginning to open in Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties.
- Fee collection at Great Falls Tavern has also been temporarily suspended.
- Gatherings of more than 10 persons are prohibited.
- C&O Canal NHP will cancel permits and reservations and will not accept applications for demonstrations, special events, or park site reservations until further notice.
- All park lands remain open. Visitors must practice social distancing and Leave No Trace guidelines.
Check www.nps.gov/choh for updates.
How You Can Help
- Stay in touch with us for the latest news. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also sign up for our email newsletter by visiting our website at www.canaltrust.org.
- Plan to volunteer at our Canal Pride events — watch our communications for dates and details.
- Book a stay for a future date at a Canal Quarters lockhouse or buy a gift certificate.
- Support the local businesses in our ten Canal Towns.
- Make a gift to the C&O Canal Trust. As a relatively small nonprofit with no endowment or cash reserves, the Trust is dependent on your generosity for close to 90 percent of its annual revenue.