Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

September 23, 2013

City needs to reconnect with Potomac River

A river runs through Cumberland.

Recently, there has been an expressed interest to relink Cumberland with the Potomac River. The river is an asset to the community that is currently providing little or no benefit to the city. It is an important connection with its historical and cultural development. If you visit Canal Place, you might never see the river. The levees and the flood control projects create a huge disconnect between the city and the river.

Cumberland needs to reconnect with the Potomac River. This commentary explores the synergistic relationship between the river, the Riverwalk experience (Reno Whitewater Park), and Canal Place. As noted in my previous commentary, the desire to revitalize the Potomac River through Cumberland probably has more in common with Reno, Nevada than the San Antonio River Walk. Reconnecting with the river involves flood control and the Riverwalk in San Antonio is not practical in terms of the degree of its development and flood control. However, a more limited development such as Reno’s whitewater park is potentially a more workable solution to the highly developed Riverwalk concept. Also, flood control needs to be addressed. More on this later.

Facing a similar problem to Cumberland, Reno wanted to reconnect their city with the river and to make the river a viable asset for the community. The highlight of their efforts was the whitewater park which includes an amphitheater on Wingfield Island within the park. Their whitewater park is a water park that offers kayaking, tubing, rafting, and swimming. The amphitheater provides cultural and special events for the community.

In addition, there are paths and trails upstream and downstream of the park, naturalizing of the levees, and a return of the river to a more free-flowing condition. With Canal Place, the C&O towpath and the bridge and tunnel to Carpendale much of the infrastructure is already in place. Also, extending the trail along the river and through Ridgeley can make an effective loop trail along the river.

Reconnecting with the river requires a supporting infrastructure. For the most part, this infrastructure has already been created with Canal Place. Canal Place is an infrastructure in search of an attraction. Normally, tourist attractions create an attraction and then the infrastructure is built to support it. The scenic railroad illustrates this point. The railroad is the attraction and an infrastructure has been developed to support it.

For the local population, there are currently few incentives to go to Canal Place. And, hopefully Canal Place will be able to solve their funding issues in the near future. Canal Place is in search of an attraction or a reason for people to go there.

The Cumberland Whitewater Park can offer that attraction. Like the whitewater park in Reno, it can provide an attraction for the local community that provides sufficient economic benefit and tourism dollars to the community. For example, the Reno Recreation and Parks Department sponsors an annual whitewater festival. Currently, this single event attracts between 45,000 to 50,000 people a year with roughly 28 percent of those attending from out-of-town. A river runs through Cumberland. A whitewater park is potentially the missing attraction for Canal Place. It is an attraction for Canal Place that has developed an infrastructure but is in search of an attraction. It reconnects people with the river.

Moving water is a natural attractant and the development of a whitewater park in Cumberland provides a reason for the local population to go to Canal Place. As in Reno, it generates tourism dollars also. The whitewater park becomes an important link in a synergistic relationship in reconnecting Cumberland, Canal Place and the Potomac River.

Robert B. Kauffman

Frostburg

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