Cumberland Times-News

February 27, 2013

Federal spending cuts could affect canal maintenance

Less garbage pickup, toilet pumping likely

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Visitors to the local Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park may notice less regular maintenance like trash pickup, mowing and toilet pumping if automatic federal spending cuts take effect Friday.

If visitor safety can’t be ensured, campgrounds may be closed, said Jennifer Mummart, acting associate regional director for communications for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service.

The spending cuts could slow repairs to the Paw Paw tunnel.

“The rock slide ... needs to be evaluated to determine what’s required to remedy the slide and reopen the tunnel. With limited staff and resources, the opening of the tunnel could be delayed,” Mummart said.

“Our ability to conduct routine maintenance and education programs would be seriously hindered if we cannot hire seasonal employees for the busy summer season. Right now, all hiring is on hold,” Mummart said.

Plans are uncertain and dependent on what happens with budget negotiations in Washington.

“We are still in the planning stages here, and no plans are absolutely final at this point. We hope that Congress will act, and that the sequester can be avoided,” Mummart said.

The park service works with th Allegany County Tourism Office, which staffs the visitor center in Cumberland seven days per week. If the county is able to continue staffing the center, it will remain open and be unaffected by the cuts, Mummart said.

The volunteer programs might suffer, though, Mummart said.

“C&O Canal has one of the most active volunteer programs in the national park system, and we appreciate all they do to support the park and its visitors. It’s possible that there would be fewer NPS employees to train and lead volunteers, so yes, it could have an effect on our volunteer program,” Mummart said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.