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Canal Story

Canal Story #15: Tina Cappetta

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Tina Cappetta, Current Superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park

C&O Canal Trust: You’ve just passed your one year anniversary as Superintendent of the C&O Canal, and it has been an extraordinary year. What have you learned about the C&O Canal community during that time?
Tina: ​The Canal community is broad and committed with varying interests – and very passionate. Whether I am talking to historians, anglers, birders, cyclists, neighbors, educators, partners, you name it – the common theme is how much people care about the long-term protection of the park and the role it plays in our larger communities.

C&O Canal Trust: You served as the C&O Canal’s Chief of Resources from 2002-2004. What are the major changes you have noticed since you were last on staff here?
Tina: ​I see a partnership program that has grown and flourished in those nearly 20 years, and while I still see excellence in the park staff, I see a significant decline in the number of that staff.

C&O Canal Trust: What are your goals for the Canal in the next few years?
Tina: ​I am focused on trying to make sure we grow our staffing capacity and that employees have what they need to do their jobs safely. There are some important “back to basics” things we want to accomplish in caring for our visitors and resources, in addition to capitalizing on some of the big funding opportunities that may present themselves through the Great American Outdoors Act and other funding streams.

C&O Canal Trust: On a personal level, what is your favorite thing to do on the canal? Do you have a favorite spot?
Tina: ​This is not a political answer, but I don’t know the canal well enough yet to say I have a favorite spot. Every time I am in the park I see something new, which is in part why I like it so much – the variety of resources and things to see, do, and learn.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Tina: ​That’s an interesting question. It is obviously an engineering marvel and a monument to vision and perseverance. As a relatively new neighbor to the canal, I have discovered it is my oasis when I am stressed (ironically often about work), and it brings joy to my doorstep with a diversity in birds that we had not known before. I carried babies in front and back packs when I was here before, and now I walk with them as young adults, enjoying the time together that the towpath offers.

Canal Story #14: Michael Marmer

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Michael Marmer, Lifetime C&O Canal Visitor

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us about your history with the C&O Canal.
Mike: I was born in 1955 and grew up in Wheaton, Maryland. I didn’t know of the C&O Canal until I joined a Boy Scout Troop in June of 1967. The scout master, Mr. Augustine, decided that summer that the troop would hike the C&O Canal on weekends.

On a snowy day, January 10, 1970, we finally completed section hiking the entire canal. It took us two years, four months, and two weeks. One time, we got lost on the canal near Paw Paw Tunnel and didn’t get home until 4 a.m.! But overall, it was a great experience, and it’s something that stayed with me after I left scouting, the memories of the outdoors.

C&O Canal Trust: What memories do you have of the canal?
Mike: One memory I have of the canal is from doing the hikes with the Boy Scouts in Big Pool, the big body of water along the towpath in Western Maryland. During my senior year of high school in 1973, I would take my mother’s 1970 Ford Maverick to go to Big Pool to go fishing. I would get up at 5 a.m. and get on the road by 5:30. It was about a two hour drive, so I was probably there by 7:30 A.M. 

As I looked for a fishing spot along the towpath, I saw a mile marker along the towpath. When we were hiking with the scouts, we called out “Mile Marker” every time we saw this welcoming sight. There it was, surrounded by eroding soil and tree roots, with the familiar color of green paint on it. Yes, today, they have brown paint on them, but there was a time when they were painted green! The lines on the marker remind me of smiles, simply happy to see you, says the mile marker. And then you go on to the next mile marker. And to this day, when my wife Linda and I are either biking or hiking on the C&O Canal, I still call out “Mile Marker!” as this thing appears in the distance. 

C&O Canal Trust: How do you use the towpath today?
Mike: My wife Linda and I do a lot biking on the C&O Canal. In fact, my second date with Linda, in April of 1981, was biking on the C&O Canal at Point of Rocks. It was a very muddy day.

We have included the C&O Canal Trust in our will, along with the C&O Canal Association.

Canal Story #13: Ashley Duncan

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Ashley Duncan, C&O Canal Trust VISTA

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Ashley: I currently work for the C&O Canal Trust as their VISTA intern. I have learned so much dealing with the non-profit and has opened my eyes up to different opportunities.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite part about being a C&O Canal VISTA?
Ashley: My favorite part about being a VISTA is that there are so many opportunities and training available for you. Depending on the direction you are going in your career, you are allowed to choose certain training to help develop your skills.
C&O Canal Trust: What drew you to the C&O Canal’s VISTA program?
Ashley: I was drawn to the C&O Canal Trust because it was a non-profit. I have always been immersed in the field or part of the private sector. I thought it would be a great way to enter through this avenue since it is a pathway program that offers guidance and support.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Ashley: My favorite memory is partaking in our Canal Community Day events since keeping the environment clean is one of my driving forces.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?
Ashley: Great Falls is one of my favorite places in the park. The scenery is breathtaking and the trails definitely build character.

Canal Story #12: Linda & Thomas Perry

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Linda & Thomas Perry

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Linda Perry: Is there is a national treasure in my backyard?  Yes.   “The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal has been described as one of this country’s loveliest failures,” writes Elizabeth Kyle in her book, “Home on the Canal.”  The canal began building in 1828 and 184.5 miles were completed until the money ran out.  It parallels the Potomac River.  But, alas, the canal was never able to surpass the railroad; the canal was expensive costing $14 million in 22 years.  It resulted in misery, hardship, the death of thousands of the immigrants who built the canal with its exquisite stonework of aqueducts, tunnels, bridges, locks and the canal.

The C&O Canal is lovely.  I enjoy its peacefulness when I look at the pastoral serenity of sycamores, oaks, maples, and birch, walnut and poplar trees.  I meditate when I look at the beautiful wildflowers with their vivid colors and varieties.  This picture is as picturesque as any portrait of the most skilled painter.  

The canal is filled with living animal life:  squirrel, groundhog, white-tailed deer and it is a bird’s paradise with its Baltimore Oriole, robin, cardinal, scarlet, woodpeckers, flinches, and thrushes.  It even has owls.  The shining blue-grey luster of the Potomac River with the sounds of water hitting the shoreline is a treat to hear and see.  To me, it is relaxing to delight in the C&O Canal’s beautiful scenery and quietness.  

I have biked the entire canal several times and walked parts.  In 2004 I participated in the five year walk by the C&O Canal Association.  For years one project I had with my husband was keeping Lock House #76 open for visitors.  I was able to tell visitors who were hiking or biking the history of the canal. 

Personally, I have fed and slept riders of the canal.  My most memorable incident was one in which it had been a cold, rainy week with a potential tornado.  I had taken off work to have a root canal fixed, so I was not available for my husband’s frantic phone calls.  He brought six dirty, drenched adults who were riding the canal to spend the night at our house.  I was astounded to see our house filled with six wet strangers.  I was in no shape for fix supper, so one of the men treated our entire group at Tony’s, our local pizza joint.  Fortunately, I had enough towels and sheets to provide for these unexpected bikers.  Miraculously, the hot water heater co-operated so everyone got hot showers/baths.

Additionally, a friend and I walked the towpath almost every day for exercise until the virus.  I rejoice that we live three blocks from the canal.  It is a favorite.   To me, the C&O National Historical Park may have been a dismal failure financially, but its loveliness is a national treasure that I treasure.    

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Tom Perry: Many years ago, or so it seems, I was able to combine my love of biking with my service as a Lutheran minister as I led the youths of Mar Lu Ridge Summer camp on the l84.5 miles of the C&O Canal National Park. We enjoyed camping out in nature and learning about our history together. One of our favorite stops was, of course, Williamsport. The long-retired keeper of the lift lock there was Harvey Brant who enjoyed telling about what it was like living in the lock house and across the street after the canal closed in 1924.  Another welcomer was Sue Ann Sullivan, whose house was adjacent to Byron Memorial Park and who would ask what she could do to help us.  Year after year I would seek her out and enjoy her company.

Thirty Five years ago in retirement my dear wife, Linda, and I were ready to find our own house somewhere in Western Maryland, and you know what place came to mind, so every Friday we took off and looked.  In 1984 we moved onto Conococheague Street in Williamsport very happy. I looked up Sue Ann Sullivan, who said to me: “Well, isn’t it about time you joined?”  “Joined what” said I. “The Canal Association of course”. She was right and I became a member. I have served  as a Level Walker, president, and the chair of a committee whose purpose it was to push for the repair of the Big Slackwater section east of Williamsport.  It was in such bad repair that bikers had a five mile dangerous detour. We were successful and rejoiced when the whole towpath once again was useable.

Now as we celebrate 50 years of our canal being a National Park I am rejoicing in what a treasure we have in “our back yard”  I am still encouraging people, old and young to get out there with me.  I just gave a free membership to a younger biking buddy!

Canal Story #11: Holly Lambert

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Holly Lambert, Physical Education Teacher

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Holly: What started out as an idea to connect kids to nature through physical activity turned into an annual school hike on the C&O Canal for our Physical Education students. Over the last 17 years with the help of various C&O Rangers and Canal Corps Teachers, I estimate that we have hiked the Canal Towpath with over 3000 students in grades 2-5. With a focus on lifetime physical activities and an exploration of local resources, students research Canal history, biology and geography as they participate in a pre-hike jogging/walking program

at school. Students “travel” the C&O map as they log their miles. The program culminates with a 3 mile hike along a stretch of the towpath where C&O Rangers and Canal Corps Teachers help students explore the trail. I am thankful to all the C&O Rangers, Educational Coordinators and Canal Corps Teachers over the years who have helped make this possible for our kids!

In the spirit of Justice Douglas…”I wish PHYSICAL EDUCATION STUDENTS…would take time off and come with me. We would go with packs on our backs and hike the 3.1 miles to Antietam Creek.”

Canal Story #10: Béla Demeter

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Béla Demeter, Canal Steward

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Béla Demeter: I’ve been a Canal Steward since July 2018. I’ve hiked the Canal and the Billy Goat Trail for nearly 50 years (when I came to Washington). I often had a plastic bag with me and rarely came out without some bottles and trash. It felt good to do my small part in cleaning up our shared landscape, especially when it involved so little effort. Signing on to the Canal Steward Program seemed like the next logical step.

In my 35 years as reptile keeper and Biologist at the National Zoo, I was the liaison between the department and our keeper aides and interpretive volunteers. I came to appreciate how incredibly important these folks were to the enhanced functioning of our operation. We simply couldn’t have reached out to the public as efficiently without their help. Upon retirement, I felt it was time to pay back some of that energy (my initial volunteer gig was at the National Gallery of Art as a docent, leading tours of the collection). As essential as government agencies are to the operation of parks and museums, staff are often limited by budgets and resources. Tapping into the immense pool of retirees and other people with time on their hands is an excellent way to enhance the benefits that these institutions offer. I also feel that it’s beneficial in so many ways when the public takes a proprietary interest in these areas.  

I think recruiting more volunteers (especially young ones) is money well spent. It always makes my day when young people comment on what I’m doing and remark that they have either done that themselves or are now inspired to do so in the future. I can spend every day on the canal, but it takes everybody pitching in to keep it pristine.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite spot in the Park — sorta like choosing your favorite child. Two spots on Billy Goat B come to mind, however. From an artistic point of view, there is a fallen tree about a quarter mile from the West trailhead. I call it the “Ent” (from Lord of the Rings). It’s incredibly expressive, and I always stop to gaze at it. It changes with moisture and is even more dramatic after a rain.

My other favorite area is about a half mile from the West trailhead. I call it “Skink Rock” due the numerous Five-lined Skinks that make this spot their refuge. It’s fun to find the little guys hiding in the crevices in the summer. This area also has a fair population of Pine Swifts as well as Black Racers on the upper portion of the trail.

Canal Story #9: Michael Mitchell

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Michael Mitchell, Former Board Chair of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history with the C&O Canal?
Mike Mitchell: I first visited the C&O Canal Park in 1975 when I moved to the Washington area for graduate school, running and cycling on the towpath when I had time away from studies.  I visited the Park with greater frequency beginning in 1992 when I became an adult leader in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs in the River Falls neighborhood in Potomac, with dozens of camping, cycling, and hiking events in the Park with the Scouts over the years.  In 1999 I began long distance cycling trips with friends on the towpath, and in the ensuing years have cycled on the towpath from Cumberland to DC five times and from Pittsburgh to DC twice.  In 2012 I was invited to join the Board of the C&O Canal Trust and for several years chaired the Program Committee of the Trust.  From 2014 through 2018 I chaired the Board of Directors of the Trust.  I am an avid photographer and six of my ten exhibits to date have featured images from the Park.  The Park continues to be my “go to” place for time in nature, peace and reflection, and I am in the Park on average three times a week.

C&O Canal Trust: During your time volunteering with the Trust, what is your favorite project you have been a part of?
Mike Mitchell: While it was not a “project” per se, my four years as Board Chairman of the Canal Trust provided me my fondest memories and sense of accomplishment in regard to the Park.  That experience afforded me a great opportunity to spend extensive time in the Park, attain a familiarity with the entire 184.5 miles of the Park, and to have a sense of legacy impact on my community adjacent to the Park as well as the entire span of the Park.  It also gave me the opportunity to develop a range of new friendships with fellow Board members, the incredibly dedicated Canal Trust staff, and the National Park Service leadership and staff of the C&O.  If I were to pick one favorite specific project on which I was a participant it would be the acquisition and installation of the new Marsden Bridge seen in the photography below.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Mike Mitchell: It would be impossible to select a single favorite canal memory.  I have a kaleidoscope of fond memories including cycling the length of the towpath multiple times with the Four Amigo friends from my days in the aerospace industry; hiking the entire length of the Park last September with a neighbor and current Canal Trust Board member in support of the Canal Trust mission; endless hours of photography in the Park in all seasons and all times of day; walks in the Park with fellow Canal Trust Board members; hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the Park; staying on overnights in the Canal Quarters lock houses with friends and family; and the sense of mission and achievement in working with the Canal Trust Board and staff, and the National Park Service staff in support of the Park.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Mike Mitchell: My favorite spot on the canal is wherever I happen to be on the canal at that moment.  Then entire 184.5 miles of the Park is a celebration of nature.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Mike Mitchell: I like to tell people that I have three sanctuaries in my life, Bethesda United Methodist Church, Washington Nationals Park, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park.  BUMC services are on YouTube and no fans in Nats Stadium now because of the pandemic, leaving the C&O Canal Park an ever more important place to spend time with friends, enjoy nature, to reflect and to recharge.  The C&O Canal Park is a place for adventure and discovery, but it also is a deeply spiritual place for me.    

Canal Story #8: Kari Cannistraro

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Kari Cannistraro, Avid Canal Bike Rider & Vlogger

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Kari: During the quarantine, I longed for some release. I craved the freedom to discover something new, explore hidden treasures, connect with nature, and engage in some fun exercise. Bike riding on the C&O Canal Towpath was the answer. I started planning each bike adventure as a tour with points of interest. Each tour would be about 20 miles to complete. As a videographer, I included my GoPro camera on these excursions. Thus began my new adventure creating videos to inspire more people to get out there and ride the C&O Canal Towpath Trail. Over time the bike touring made a profound change in my life.

Knowing that there were once Indians habituating right in this area sharpens my experience. I ride along the Potomac River on one side and the canal on the other side. I envision the mules pulling the boats through along the waterway and stopping at the lock gates to pass through the lock. I yell “Heeeey, Lock!” That is what the canal boater would yell to the lock keeper to open up the gates so as to pass through. As I ride along, I watch the trees sway in the wind with leaves splashing on the trail, feeling a kinship with the tranquil and of the stirring of nature drawing me in. I often pause off the bike trail and listen to the sounds of nature around me. I continue to ride along the Potomac River with the wind blowing through my hair just being in the moment. I let my mind wander and breathe in the pure air. I am in a gothic cathedral of trees. It’s a drug. I pass a historic marker that has a description of a Civil War battle crossing and a desperate escape. It really happened right here! I have to stop and take a closer look. Filming while rolling along and stopping at points of interest has intensified my experiences and my feelings of well-being. There is gold in “them thar hills”…yes…gold mines. I fight the rough hilly terrain feeling the thrill of danger to conquer it. I pass one of the most picturesque railroad depots and then quarry ruins that look like Roman ruins, but this is Maryland. On another trip, I push my bike off the path towards an 18th-century old village. Even though only stonewall ruins remain, it gives me a sense of adventure and travel. I feel as if I am on vacation. I need more! My goal is to continue to film my bike adventures and post them on YouTube and cover all of the 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal Towpath. I am biking the trail in segments and have already posted many videos. Each video has a travel destination to stop, enjoy and learn about the history surrounding the C&O Canal Towpath. There are hidden gems out there that enhance the biking experience. Besides various historic ruins, waterfalls, charming towns, gold mines, horse farms, ghosts, eagles, there is the ever-pervasive nature and wildlife. So many stories of interest are nestled nearby and often hidden along the trail. The C&O Canal Towpath is a wonder waiting to be discovered.

As I say at the end of all my videos…. “Hope to see you riding!”

Below are some of the C&O Towpath videos shot during the bike rides.
1.Lock 18 to Lock 23- Great Falls to Seneca Mill and Quarry Ruins
https://youtu.be/nzri5KVbrcs
2.Cabin John, Maryland to Georgetown, DC Lock 10 to Lock 5
https://youtu.be/x563f3aoG9I
3.Point of Rocks, MD to Harpers Ferry, WVA Lock 29 to Lock 33
https://youtu.be/si8ZClfKcOo
4.Harpers Ferry, WVA to Shepherdstown, WVA Lock 33 to Lock 38
https://youtu.be/q4T2Q5VdLsI

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3og6FPSbicKUUhhnJmgLGw

Canal Story #7: Bruce Rosenblum

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Bruce Rosenblum, Frequent Canal Visitor

C&O  Canal Trust: Tell us your C&O Canal story!
Bruce: During the summer of 2020, I cleared my head and some got exercise by going for a brisk walk along the canal most mornings, as early as possible (usually starting by 6 a.m.) While I have travelled the canal by bike and foot for many years, being there regularly and at a time when there was not too much other “human activity,” I saw many things I had not noticed before–river otters building a den and traversing the space between canal and river; a great blue heron catching a frog for “breakfast”; two owls singing a “duet”. I wrote a song for my grandson (age 5) about the canal, and on a late August trip to visit him (my only sojourn away from the house in the last 10 months) had a chance to sing it with him and add a verse he wrote about his experiences with nature walking on Cape Cod. A version of the song is posted to You Tube, complete with photographic “illustrations” from some of my canal walks and you can view it here.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Bruce: I have visited the canal for many years, either as part of my bike routes or on foot.  Walking, biking and watching the views/wildlife are my favorite things to do there.  

 C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Bruce: I have many fond memories of being on the canal, but it has been extra special during the last 10 months to be able to access this natural beauty so close to home when travel is difficult to impossible.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Bruce: My walks center on the segment between Swains Lock and Seneca Lock (Swains Lock is 4-5 miles from my house), which has beautiful views and a fair amount of wildlife.  I have been on the path from the start in Georgetown to Edwards Ferry, and there are a lot of beautiful and varied spots along that (circa 30 mile?) section–but that also means I haven’t even seen most of the canal yet!

Canal Story #6: Daofeng and Angela He

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Daofeng and Angela He, C&O Canal Trust Donors

Daofeng and Angela He, through their Daofeng and Angela Foundation, have sponsored 40 benches along the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s towpath, providing $185,000 to the C&O Canal Trust for park maintenance and beautification projects.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?

Daofeng & Angela: We live very close to the Park and always use the towpath and trails to walk and ride bikes. We feel we need to feed back into nature and national parks. People take more from nature then we feed back into it. That is the biggest challenge we as humans have to face. 

C&O Canal Trust: Why did you decide to sponsor benches along the C&O Canal towpath?

Angela: For me, nature is very important. People need to take care of nature. At Great Falls, we saw the boat and the people enjoying the Park. Every Friday, I went to the Park to walk along the Billy Goat Trail. I would sit on a rock, and it was very peaceful. People use the Park to leave behind their stressful lives and feel peaceful. In nature, everything is peaceful. For this reason, nature and the environment is very important to everyone. It is the small things that are important. In the community and in our families, we take care of the small things and this helps us to take care of the big things.

Daofeng: Before I retired, I was involved in establishing a nonprofit in China. So I know about the nonprofit industry. Here in the U.S. I wanted to sponsor a local nonprofit that worked at the grassroots level. I wanted to make the funds from my foundation to flow to where it is really needed. A bench is a symbol of how we can reconstruct the relationship between humans and nature. It is important that the benches are made of reconstructed materials. Nothing is destroyed to manufacture them. We think of each bench and its location as a microclimate in the Park.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?

Daofeng & Angela: We enjoy hiking the towpath between Bethesda and Great Falls.

Canal Story #5: John Guttmann

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

John Guttmann, Board Chair of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the canal?
John: I live in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, DC. Our house overlooks the Canal. It is part of the fabric of life for us. I have also served on the Board of Directors of the C&O Canal Trust since 2015, serving as Development Committee Chair, Vice Chair, and now Chair of the Board of Directors.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite project or accomplishment during your time on the C&O Canal Trust’s Board of Directors?
John: Towpath Forever! Nothing is more basic than the Trust’s efforts supporting the Park’s work to maintain this great American resource for our communities today and tomorrow.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal?
John: Years ago, I biked from Hancock to Georgetown with one of my close friends. It was my first sustained experience on the Canal. That trip opened my eyes to what a remarkable resource the Park is for our entire region and, in fact, for all of America.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
John: Definitely Widewater. Every time I am there, I am newly astonished that such a remarkable place of peace and beauty exists so close to a major city.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
John: The Canal is a constant reminder of the importance of our National Parks. It is part of our history. It is a remarkable piece of the natural world, full of an abundance of wildlife –  a place for contemplation and regeneration. However, like all of our National Parks, it requires support and attention from the public because of shameful resource shortages. That is where the Trust and its supporters come into play.

Canal Story #4: Brody Reppe

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Brody Reppe, Eight-Year-Old Park Volunteer, C&O Canal Trust Fundraiser, & Towpath Bike Rider

 

This past summer, eight-year-old Brody Reppe learned how to ride his bike and spent time riding with his father on the C&O Canal towpath. Upon learning that the C&O Canal Trust raised money to help maintain the towpath’s surface, Brody decided he wanted to help. He signed up for our TowpathGO! fundraiser and raised over $6,500! In January, Brody was awarded WTOP’s Top Kid Award; he donated 25% of his award winnings back to the Trust. To read more about Brody’s extraordinary accomplishment, visit WTOP here.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the canal?
Brody: My dad told me about the canal as a great place to ride our bikes.  I was excited to try it and loved it right away!
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite accomplishment on the canal?
Brody: I rode 50 miles in one day as a fundraiser for the canal.  It was fun and it felt good to help.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal?
Brody: My summer of riding the whole C&O Canal with my dad.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal? Why?
Brody: My favorite spot on the canal is Great Falls.  I think the falls are really pretty.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?
Brody: Riding my bike of course!
C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Brody: The canal is special because there is so much history and things to see along the canal.  It’s a lot of fun!

Canal Story #3: Patricia Barber

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Patricia Barber, Retiring Director of Development of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the Canal?

Patricia: I was introduced to the C&O Canal in 1979 when I arrived in the DC area from what was then Rhodesia to attend grad school. The civil war in Rhodesia in the 1970s had rendered the countryside unsafe, so I was enchanted that I could explore this national park alone and in safety. Since then, I have been an enthusiastic Park user  – hiking, biking, walking three generations of hounds, paddling on the river, learning the canal’s history, and just loving its natural beauty. My husband and I have also owned two homes within walking distance of the canal and I have been privileged to work for the C&O Canal Trust as its Director of Development for five years.


C&O Canal Trust: Our readers may not know that you are retiring from the C&O Canal Trust at the end of January 2021. What is your favorite project or accomplishment you were a part of during your time with the Trust?

Patricia: Engaging with so many wonderful  Trust supporters whose generosity will leave an enduring legacy for the C&O Canal lovers of the future.


C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite Canal memory?

Patricia: Watching my son (now 30) toddling among the bluebells along the towpath.


C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal and why?

Patricia: An impossible question. Great Falls and the Potomac Gorge for their grandeur. Monocacy Aqueduct for its beauty. Pennyfield for its froggy chorus. Paw Paw Tunnel for its testimony to the hard labor of those who built the canal. Antietam Aqueduct to Taylors Landing because it’s my “home stretch.”


C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Patricia: Peace, beauty, adventure, escape from the rat race.

Canal Story #2: Jon Wolz

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Jon Wolz, former Boy Scout who testified in support of making the C&O Canal a National Park and current volunteer

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal? 

Jon: In 1970, Congressmen Gilbert Gude and J. Glenn Beall of Maryland co-sponsored a bill to make the C&O Canal into a National Historical Park. Congressmen Gude contacted Mr. Charles Stover of Rockville to find a couple of Boy Scouts to testify before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs on their feelings for making the C&O Canal into a National Historical Park. Mr. Stover had recently helped plan and arrange the Montgomery County District Camp O’Ree at Fort Frederick, Maryland next to the canal in October 1970. At that Camp O’Ree, Congressman Gude spoke to the scouts about the need for making the canal into a National Historical Park. Subsequent to that campout, the House of Representatives passed a bill in support of Congressman Gude’s vision for the canal. Charles Stover contacted Jack Alleman, Scoutmaster of Troop 246 of Silver Spring, Maryland. Mr. Stover had met Mr. Alleman at the Camp O’Ree that was attended by Troop 246 and through conversation, learned that several scouts from the troop had hiked the entire length of the C&O Canal. Mr. Alleman selected me for this honor to speak before the Committee. At the time, I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and an Eagle Scout. In addition to me speaking, Life Scout Mark Stover from Troop 1072 was chosen to speak. Both of us were asked to speak on the meaning of the C&O Canal and why it should be preserved as a National Historical Park.

On December 15, 1970, I rode with my parents, Charles and Shirley Wolz, to the Capitol where we were met by Congressmen Gude and Beall, who escorted us to the hearing room. Senator Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland was the first to testify, followed by Congressman Gude. After Congressmen Gude spoke, he introduced me and Mark to subcommittee chairman Senator Alan Bible of Nevada and the other subcommittee members. I spoke after Congressmen Gude and then Mark spoke. Cub Scout Charles Stover presented to each of the ten men of the subcommittee the C&O Canal Scout patches and medals awarded Scouts for hiking the Canal.

On December 22, 1970, the bill was passed by the Senate, and it was sent to President Nixon on December 23, 1970 for his signature. On January 8, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Act making the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal a National Historical Park.

After I retired from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2014, I became a level walker with the C&O Canal Association (COCA) in 2015. I have two levels that go from White’s Ferry to the Monocacy Aqueduct. Over the last 5 1/2 years, I have been involved with a few C&O Canal Pride Days, painted 36 picnic tables with a friend in 2019, serve on the audit committee for the C&O Canal Association, given talks to the Monocacy Lions Club and the Poolesville Oddfellows about the C&O Canal, led a walk to Latrobe’s Marble Quarry for Poolesville Area Seniors, participated in garlic mustard pulls, helped build three picnic tables for the Park under the guidance of Jim Heins of the COCA, organized and led Potomac River clean-ups at the Monocacy Aqueduct/Lock 27 beginning in 2017, adding the White’s Ferry area in 2019, and recommended a few special projects for the Park to the COCA’s Special Project’s Committee. One project that I am currently involved with is replacing the mule kick boards on the Monocacy Aqueduct that is jointly sponsored by the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the COCA. In 2021, I will be leading walks on behalf of the COCA to Latrobe’s Marble Quarry, White’s Ford Fort, and the Johnson Quarry. Also, in 2021, I hope to lead Potomac River Clean-ups at the Monocacy Aqueduct/Lock 27, Lock 26/Dickerson and White’s Ferry with the support of Boys Scouts from Montgomery County Maryland.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal that you can share?

Jon: The many hikes and campouts along the towpath as a Boy Scout. I remember camping at various places from Point of Rocks to Swains Lock. I learned to canoe at Swains Lock and once we canoed from Swains Lock up to Violettes Lock. As a scout, my troop bicycled from Cumberland to Brunswick, a total of 125 miles and camped along the way.

In September 2020, I was invited to walk with an American Legion Post and local Girl Scout troop across White’s Ford and back. We met at Calleva Farm where I spoke of the history of White’s Ford and the immediate area along the canal. We walked down the hillside to the towpath. A few of the girls asked about the “path.” They had never been on the towpath before, so I talked to them about the towpath and the canal.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal? Why?

Jon: I have a few favorite places. From White’s Ferry to the Monocacy Aqueduct, there is a variety of wildlife and birds. I first visited this stretch as a Boy Scout and had many fond memories of this area from my youth. In recent years, I have seen deer, fox, muskrats, a variety of birds, and turtles. I enjoy finding animal tracks along the culvert streams or in the snow.  I have discovered there is a lot of history along this stretch of the canal including Latrobe’s marble quarry, White’s Ford Fort, civil war history, a variety of culverts, two locks, two granary ruins and the Monocacy Aqueduct. In the springtime and into the summer, there are a variety of wildflowers. I enjoy keeping an eye on paw paws as they grow throughout the spring and summer.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?

Jon: Walking along the towpath in all four seasons, noticing the changes with the wildlife and to trees/plants. I also look forward to seeing each spring the wildlife, tree leaves, and plants make their reappearance in the park. I enjoy seeing the ice formations flowing down berm side cliffs and the icicles beneath the end arches at the Monocacy Aqueduct. I enjoy finding a quiet place to sit observing my surroundings and listening to the sounds of the park.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Jon: It is always an exciting place for me to walk alone or with friends or family. Each time I visit the canal, I always have a new and unique experience. I greatly appreciate the efforts by the C&O Canal National Historical Park and others to maintain the physical park, tell, and maintain the history of the park. I feel that in my own way I can help maintain the park and tell the history of the park as well so the park will live on for future generations.

Congressmen Gude and Beall, cub scout Mark Stover and boy scout Jon Wolz, December 15, 1970.

A note to Jon Wolz from Gilbert Gude on top of the hearing book from December 15, 1970.

Canal Story #1: Karen Gray

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Karen Gray, long-time C&O Canal volunteer historian

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Karen: I have a 3-love relationship with the C&O Canal. (1) I love the park–its natural, historic, and human resources. (2) I love the history and engineering of the canal and especially the historic masonry structures. And (3) I love the people who work in the park and those who love it as I do–in multiple ways.
C&O Canal Trust: Can you share your favorite historical fact or story about the canal?
Karen: I am so fascinated by the times the canal should have died but survived. Much of my study has been driven by the need to explain to myself those survivals and to understand the historic context and the people who played decisive roles in its survival.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Karen: I have competing memories that are on pretty much the same level of joy and satisfaction and they involve restorations or improvements: The dedication of the newly reconstructed Catoctin Aqueduct, the dedication of the Monocacy stabilization, my first visit to the fully restored and rewatered Conococheague Aqueduct (I was traveling at the time of the dedication or I would have been there), and the dedication of the bench at the Monocacy in memory of our incredible National Park Service (NPS) mason, Randy Astarb.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Karen: I especially love Dam 5 and Little Slackwater up to and including Locks 45 and 46. I consider the Dam 5 and Inlet #5 location the most dangerous for the boat people on the canal and the engineering uniquely interesting. But it is also now one of the most dramatic, unique, and beautiful places along the 184.5 miles–to a great extent because of one’s proximity to the beautiful, historic Upper Potomac River.
C&O Canal Trust: What does the C&O Canal mean to you?
Karen: It is very hard for me to put into words what the canal means to me. Trying to do so would require speaking about the connection to past people and events; the many friendships among the people associated with the NPS and the park that have enriched my life; the times that walks on the towpath have intensified my sense of life and the life and land I am a part of; and finally the times that the towpath has been my refuge when troubled or in sorrow and in need of interior healing which it always provided. What does it mean to me more briefly? A home–a place for belonging, unfailing pleasure, and unending personal enrichment.