Regional lawmakers bid to renew C&O Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman David Trone (both D-Md.), joined together with Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), as well as Representatives Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Gerald Connolly (D-V a.) to introduce legislation that ensures the continued involvement of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historical Park Federal Advisory Commission in decisions that affect the administration and development of the park.

For more than 40 years, the Advisory Commission has provided a vital link between the surrounding communities and the National Park Service, which manages the operations, maintenance and restoration of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

“There is no better wealth of knowledge of the unique issues the C&O Canal and its resources face than the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “History has shown us what happens when we do not listen to the people who know their home best, and this commission ensures that all surrounding communities have a voice in shaping their future. I’m proud to work together with our neighboring delegations to keep this commission running strong.”

“The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Federal Advisory Commission has a decades-long, proven record of ensuring the continued growth and maintenance of this valued park, and I’m honored to represent so many Maryland communities that benefit from it,” said Congressman Trone. “With its work reauthorized for another 10 years, I look forward to working with the Commission and its continued efforts to protect our parks.”

“The C&O Canal has a rich history of facilitating the transportation of goods between West Virginia, D.C., and Maryland. Today, its trails serve as a gateway, bringing tourists to places like Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. I co-sponsored the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission Extension Act because it is important to continue to give West Virginia a seat at the table when it comes to enhancing the visitor experience and safety along this historic canal,” Senator Capito said.

“For decades, this commission has been an honest broker for the National Park Service and local communities. Together, they have helped boost our outdoor economy in a responsible way while preserving this important recreational space for Marylanders and visitors across the region. This legislation is vital to ensure the commission can continue to grow and maintain one of our greatest treasurers – the C&O Canal National Historical Park – for years to come,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“The C&O Canal National Historical Park is one of six national park units in West Virginia, and the park’s Federal Advisory Commission has a long history of working with the communities the canal passes through to ensure that all Americans can enjoy this beautiful piece of our nation’s history. More people are visiting America’s national parks than ever before. This reauthorization legislation will ensure that the C&O Canal continues to have essential input from our communities,” said Senator Manchin.

“West Virginia features a bevy of wonderful outdoor activities. Along its 184.5-mile route, the Chesapeake and Ohio National Canal National Historical Park passes alongside many beautiful West Virginia communities,” Rep.

Mooney said. “The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park Advisory Commission is best suited to ensure this wonderful park remains a top destination for my constituents and visitors alike.”

The C&O Canal National Historical Park is 184.5 miles long and covers 20,000 acres winding north and west along the Potomac River from the heart of Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Md. The park’s watered canal, contiguous towpath (which is popular among cyclists, backpackers, day hikers and runners), hundreds of historic structures and pre-Civil War-era towns like Hancock, Hagerstown, Williamsport and Sharpsburg; all tell the story of how the C&O Canal once served as a crucial East/West commercial link. The park also preserves pristine views of the Potomac River, evocative of the C&O Canal’s working days.

In 2021, more than five million people visited the C&O Canal National Historical Park, making it Maryland’s most popular national park.

Tourism related to the park has generated an estimated $161 million for surrounding businesses and towns, supporting 1,360 jobs. Much of the park’ s success is attributed to the positive relationship and goodwill that has developed over the years between the NPS and local community leaders through the Advisory Commission.

The Advisory Commission was first established in 1971 as part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Development Act. Every 10 years Congress must reauthorize the Advisory Commission, which has been reauthorized three times with overwhelming congressional support. Without intervention, the Commission will expire on September 26, 2024.

The Advisory Commission operates at a nominal cost, serving in a purely advisory role to the National Park Service. Senator Cardin and then- Rep. Van Hollen introduced companion bills to reauthorize the commission in the 111th Congress.