The C&O Canal Trust, the official nonprofit partner of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, has been awarded the George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service by a Group in the National Capital Area. Each year, the George and Helen Hartzog Awards honor the exemplary contributions of National Park Service volunteers.
The Trust was nominated for the award by the staff of the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP). “We wanted to recognize the Trust’s leadership of volunteer programs that preserve the story of the C&O Canal, champion youth engagement and diversity, draw canal communities into the Park’s history, and provide opportunities for local communities to engage in the many wonders of the C&O Canal,” said Park Superintendent Tina Cappetta.
In 2019, 851 C&O Canal Trust volunteers contributed 7,177 hours to the C&O Canal NHP, for a total value of $204,131.
As a partner to the C&O Canal NHP, the Trust runs a variety of volunteer programs. “Members of the public flock to the annual Canal Pride Days, an opportunity to protect and preserve the Canal and its resources,” Cappetta said. “Volunteer Quartermasters maintain lockhouses that immerse visitors into seven unique time periods across canal history, opening eyes to what life was like for those who worked on the canal. The volunteer Canal Towns Partnership engages 10 towns bordering the Park to help promote the importance and beauty of the resource.”
Volunteers also help the Trust with its annual Park After Dark fundraising gala, as visitor guides, as photographers, and as board and committee members. Volunteers this year have also participated in trash clean-ups made necessary by a 22% increase in Park visitation since the pandemic began.
“I am so pleased that the C&O Canal Trust is being recognized for the role we play in engaging volunteers to preserve and protect the Park,” said C&O Canal Trust President Robin Zanotti. “I could not be more proud of the work our staff, board, and volunteers do to maximize our impact to support the C&O Canal National Historical Park. This is particularly meaningful because the nomination comes from our National Park Service partners, an organization we could not be more proud to work with. We share this recognition not only with our volunteers, but also with so many members of Park staff who willingly engage with us in making each of these programs successful.”
“Through creative efforts,” Cappetta continued, “the Trust is paving the way in supplementing youth programming offered by the Park, targeting youth volunteers from diverse communities. Trust volunteer programs truly help the Park reach broader audiences while fostering a sense of community reminiscent of canal culture. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have their wonderful contributions recognized and celebrated.”
Each year, the National Park Service selects outstanding volunteer groups to receive the George and Helen Hartzog Awards. The awards were created in honor of George B. Hartzog, who served as the National Park Service Director from 1964-1972, and his wife, Helen, who was an avid volunteer and supporter of volunteers in national parks. In 1970, under the leadership of Director Hartzog, the Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program started with a few hundred volunteers. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program and today, hundreds of thousands of volunteers donate their time, skills, and talents to the National Park Service.