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Volunteer

Meet Béla Demeter, Canal Steward

By Blog, Content, Volunteer

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.

Join Béla in becoming a Canal Steward this year! Sign up here.

The McNulty Family Cleans up Violettes Lock on MLK Day

By Blog, Volunteer
The McNulty family has a passion for the C&O Canal National Historical Park, grown over years of exploring the Park’s diverse recreational opportunities.  At the start of the pandemic, they section hiked the towpath from Dargan Bend to Georgetown, soaking in the different landscapes and wildlife.  The McNultys enjoyed their experience so much they decided to give back to the Park by volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   Read More

Volunteers Contribute Thousands of Hours to the Park

By News, Volunteer

Welcoming close to 5 million visitors annually and stretching 184.5 miles long, the C&O Canal National Historical Park requires many boots on the ground to maintain its trails and towpath, operate programs, and assist visitors. The National Park Service would not be able to do this without the invaluable efforts of the many volunteers who contribute thousands of hours of service each year. Read More

Canal Quartermasters’ Perspectives

By Volunteer

In 1954, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas famously joined the effort to protect the C&O Canal’s unique beauty and preserve it as a “sanctuary for everyone.” Thanks to Justice Douglas and countless others, visitors can continue to marvel at its wild serenity. Picking up this torch of appreciation and advocacy for the Canal is a special group of C&O Canal Trust volunteers called Quartermasters, who help to maintain the lockhouses and assist guests of the Trust’s Canal Quarters program. Read More