The C&O Canal Trust’s Canal For All program was launched in 2017 with the goal of engaging young people from underrepresented communities in programs in the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP). This year, the Canal For All program has grown to provide fun and educational programs with community partner organizations in and around the C&O Canal. Summer partners included the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, Girls Inc., and Community Bridges.
In July and August, over 200 youth and adults from the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County and Girls Inc. of Washington County visited Four Locks where they explored Lockhouse 49 and nearby natural areas, went on hikes, made crafts and got to try some early American games. Some of the kids were delighted when they got to come back a second time.
On July 24, in celebration of Latino Conservation Week, participants from Community Bridges visited Great Falls to hike, meet the mules, and engage in some fun activities focusing on conservation and Leave No Trace ethics. Several of the Community Bridges participants have come to every program their group has done with the Trust, including painting the mule shed in April.
Molly Lynch, the Community Bridges Middle School Program Manager, coordinated with the Trust this summer to bring educational programming to groups of kids at Community Bridges. “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,” said Molly.
The Trust has received generous support to help expand this important work. In total, the Trust has been granted $94,150 from Montgomery County, Cornelia Cogswell Rossi Foundation, Pepco, the Healthier Greener Kinder Foundation, and the NPS Challenge Cost Share Program.
As we celebrate this year’s successful Canal For All programs, the Trust continues to develop the program with hopes of including additional underrepresented groups such as LGBTQA+ and disabled hikers. As Liz Janelle, the Trust’s Canal For All Coordinator said, “The Canal For All Program is a great opportunity to provide free programming to help provide equitable access to the Park. To many, the C&O Canal remains inaccessible, and the Trust’s Canal For All program aims to improve that access.”