The July 10 Washington Post Magazine article “C&O Canal: Man-made, but nature-ruled,” which included a beautiful photo spread of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park by H. Darr Beiser, served as a reminder of the treasured natural resource we have in our back yard. If we want this wonderful park to be available to our children and our children’s children, however, we must act now to preserve it.
The National Park Service logged nearly 5 million visits to the C&O Canal in 2015, making it the 12th most-visited park in the national park system. This heavy usage takes a toll on the towpath, historic structures, hiking trails and canal itself, resulting in significant unmet maintenance needs. The National Park Service has identified a $100 million maintenance and repair backlog in this single park.
Most Washingtonians assume that caring for the 184.5 miles and 20,000 acres that make up the park is solely the responsibility of the National Park Service, but decreasing budgets make the job increasingly difficult. The C&O Canal Trust is the official friends group of the canal, tasked with raising money to support the needs of the park, along with raising awareness that the park’s users must help care for it.
Michael C. Mitchell, Hagerstown
The writer is chair of the C&O Canal Trust
board of directors.