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September 23, 2013

Why not give Canal Place to the National Park Service?

The analysis reveals fiscal needs of this key facet of our efforts to preserve and enhance visits to our National Historic Park terminus and its intriguing locale including the quarter century anniversary of the scenic railroad, made me recall the many times when 25 years of success seemed unlikely.

No longer!  If President “Ike” had not used his executive power to save the entire 184 miles along the Potomac while strong lobbying to dam 40 miles of beautiful land in three states there would be no terminus in Cumberland.

As C&O Canal Association advocates marched each year in the 1960s, reminding opponents in Congress and in our county of the need to conserve its entire length as a national park, there would be no terminus in Cumberland.  

Fortunately we had visionary 6th District members of Congress who ignored opposition.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from many areas adopted biking and hikiing for merit badges. Their interest converted many to seeing potential in the Potomac as Ike viewed it.  

After reviewing these memories of decades of “lobbying with your feet” as Mr Justice Douglas led his motley crew along the towpath, I offer this suggestion: Convey Canal Place minus the rail right-of-way to the National Park Service.

They enlist volunteers who inspect every mile of towpath, collect money for projects that are hard to fund and.maintain Legal Defense funding in separate account- ready to thwart projects that threaten the “magnificent ditch.”

The park maintains several notable structures older than Western Maryland Station. They have proven expertise. We cannot know what growth or lack of growth may do to Cumberland over the next 50 or 100 years.

Many changes in local government structure are sure to occur. Oil and gas prospectors could affect Wills Creek and other sources of the great Potomac.

The safest future for Canal Place is to become part of the National Park System. Always under stress from forces who question its conservation. Always defended by generations who love and respect their beautiful parks.

Thomas F. Conlon

Cumberland

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