There is more extreme weather in the forecast, and the NPS has passed on the following advisory:
With below freezing temperatures forecast for January 21, the volunteer program is suspended on Friday. The park will be open to the public, but volunteers are not authorized to work in the park. This is to ensure your safety during the extreme cold weather event. If you choose to visit the park on Friday, January 21 you must do so as a private citizen.
Two announcements from the National Park Service follow. If you are interested, the meetings are hosted on Microsoft Teams. The links are provided below. Note – I will not be able to assist you if you have a problem with Microsoft Teams.
I will be contacting all Level Walkers individually over the next few weeks regarding some administrative matters. Please be patient, as there are numerous volunteers to contact and processing emails takes a bit of time.
Quarterly Volunteer Call: Thursday, January 20, 2022 from 1:00 – 2:15 PM. In 2022, we will be holding quarterly all-volunteer calls to provide you with information and updates about the park. The meetings will be recorded and shared with you afterwards so that if you cannot make the scheduled time, you will still be able to get the info. Our 1st quarterly call is scheduled for Thursday, January 20 from 1-2:15pm and will be held on Microsoft Teams. There is a phone call-in option if you cannot join via computer, however, please note that there will be a slideshow presentation so we encourage you to join via Teams if possible. During the January 20 call, park engineer Joe Reed will be presenting on some of the major projects currently taking place or scheduled in the park. Christiana Hanson will also provide updates from the Division of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers. Please try to get into the meeting 5-10 minutes early to allow for any troubleshooting or issues. If you are not familiar with Teams, here are some instructions – You do not need to install Microsoft Teams or have an application to access the virtual meeting. Just before the Teams call on January 20, Join on your computer or mobile app by clicking – Click here to join the meeting Or call in (audio only)202-640-1187 Phone Conference ID: 320 503 473#
VIP Speaker Series: Thursday, January 27, 2022 at 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Announcing the 2022 VIP Speaker Series! Join us on January 27th for the first of several presentations that will take place throughout the year. Log on to learn about fascinating topics such as special programs within the National Park Service, Lyme Disease awareness, C&O Canal historical research and more! These sessions will be recorded and available to watch later if you are unable to make it. Stay tuned for information on future presentations.
Preview for VIP Speaker Series #1:
Interested in International Relations and the NPS? Join Becky McCarty to learn about the Office of International Affairs program as she highlights the International Volunteer In Parks program and some of the NPS “sister parks” in Ireland, South Africa and around the world!
The NPS has issued the following advisory for volunteers.
Dear Volunteers, With the wintry weather forecast, the volunteer program is suspended on Sunday, January 16 and Monday, January 17. The park will be open to the public, but volunteers are not authorized to work in the park. This is to ensure your safety during the inclement weather event. All staff in the division of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers will be teleworking and only emergency staff will be onsite. If you choose to visit the park on Sunday and Monday, you must do so as a private citizen. For updates on any park closures please check the park website or the park Facebook page.
Some park updates from the C&O Canal volunteer manager follow.
At our Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event, we received questions about the topics below that may be of interest to some of you. If you have further questions, please reach out to your park staff program coordinator.
Update on towpath resurfacing schedule – The towpath resurfacing currently in progress is from Lock 38/Ferry Hill (Mile 72.5) to Big Slackwater (Mile 86.7). The next phase of resurfacing will be from Spring Gap (Mile 173) to Cumberland (Mile 184.5)
Update on hazardous tree removal along the towpath – The following areas of the park currently have open contracts for hazardous tree removal:
Miles 5 – 10.5
Palisades trails including Billy Goat & Gold Mine, and Great Falls Tavern area
Miles 30.84 – 39.63
Miles 64.8 – 72.8
Miles 106 – 117
Miles 173 – 184
Update on reopening of visitor centers – Visitor centers in the park will tentatively open in 2022 pending the status of community transmission levels of COVID-19. There will be COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place when they reopen.
Update on location of the Williamsport visitor center – Planning is underway to rehab the Cushwa Warehouse and the Trolley Barn to improve the visitor experience at both. The location of the VC will continue to be the Cushwa Warehouse until improvements are made to the Trolley Barn in the future.
Update on the low water passage at the washout at MM 52.5 – At the low water crossing for culvert 82, the park has an inter-agency agreement with eastern federal lands federal highway administration to bundle a new bridge up on the towpath with three other bridges in the park. That design is moving forward and will result in construction.
Update on log wall and the water level at Widewater – Widewater is currently drawn down to lower levels to avoid the canal filling up near the log wall. This is the high dry laid stone wall that has exhibited multiple sinkholes forming since December 2015. The water along level 14, approximately 4 miles long, needs to be lowered to mitigate the further formation of the sinkholes. The same wall, just upstream of Carderock, near mile marker 11 is currently being progressed forward for construction. The design is expected to be completed early next calendar year, with construction to follow. Construction would not be until late calendar year 2023 or perhaps a little later.
Update on desilting the canal between Great Falls and Violettes Lock – This project is planned to take place in the winter of FY23.
Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event – The NPS sent the following update on the volunteer appreciation event: Dear Volunteers, We have set the date for our Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event for Thursday, October 21 from 5-7pm. Please RSVP for the event by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can add your name to the guest list and send you the Zoom link. Even if you previously RSVP’d for the picnic that was cancelled, please email us a new RSVP for the virtual event. For planning purposes, please RSVP by October 1. We will also be sending you details on where to pick up your appreciation items and goodie bag prior to October 21. If you have any questions, please reach out to your volunteer program coordinator. Thanks, and we hope to “see” you on October 21. – Emily Durán Hewitt
Level Walker Volunteer Hours – The end of Fiscal Year 2021 is September 30 and is rapidly approaching. I have to submit all FY21 volunteer hours for the Level Walker team to the NPS. I intend to send my report on Sunday, October 3rd. If you have any reports up to and including September 30th, please at get the hours to me by the end of the day on Saturday, October 2nd. You don’t need to do your full report if you need more time, just let me know what your hours were.
The latest status update for operations on the C&O Canal follows. This is provided by the Volunteer Manager. If you go out there please be careful.
Volunteers, The park’s Chief Ranger has given the OK to resume volunteer program operations on Friday, September 3rd. However, water levels are still rising so please avoid areas that are prone to flooding such as McMahons, Dam 4, Culvert 82, etc. For a list of current closures and park condition updates, please check the C&O Canal NHP website alerts page – https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm All visitors are encouraged to use caution. Even once the rain stops, conditions in the park may still change quickly. Do not attempt to cross washouts or high-water areas. Remain aware of rising water levels in the Potomac River and neighboring streams. High water may impact low areas of the park, and conditions may change unexpectedly. Be aware of possible debris on the towpath, flooding, washouts, and falling trees.
The NPS advises that at the present time volunteer activities are still suspended. Please note the following emergency guidance.
Message from Safety Officer:
As you know, the watershed for the Potomac River received a lot of rain yesterday and the Potomac River is rapidly rising. We expect minor flooding in many sections of the park.
Please do not let the sunshine and mild conditions today reduce your situational awareness. There are many hazards out there.
Many trees are damaged and the ground is soaked. As a result, some trees may fail suddenly and without warning and many trees may fall over due to root ball heave.
One of the biggest dangers today will be the rapid river rise. The Potomac River at Paw Paw rose 16 feet in less than 12 hours!!! As you know, many sections of the towpath will flood on the upstream and downstream portions and it is very easy to become stranded due to rapidly rising waters. The river is near crest level at Paw Paw and is expected to crest at Little Falls on Friday around 6 PM.
The Chief Ranger of the C&O Canal NHP has directed that all volunteer operations, including level walking, be temporarily suspended on the park on Wednesday and Thursday, September 1 and 2. Please follow this guidance. I will advise if there are any changes to that status.
On July 17th, I informed you about the park’s annual volunteer picnics. Due to the evolving situation with COVID-19, the park has decided that the in-person event is not advisable. Per the following note from the C&O Canal Volunteer Manager, the in-person events are canceled.
Consistent with CDC recommendations and guidance from both NPS regional leadership and United States Public Health Service, with the rise in cases of COVID-19 and higher community transmission rates we have decided to cancel the in-person volunteer picnics and move the volunteer appreciation event to a virtual platform. Park staff is working on plans for a virtual event, and we will be in touch soon with more details. We look forward to safely celebrating your service to the park with our volunteers, staff, and partners.
The park has provided a staff update for the program office. As many of you know, the park uses interns to support the efforts of many departments, including the volunteer program. As park volunteers, you may meet or talk to them as you perform your duties. This is a rewarding experience, both for the interns and those of us who work with talented young people as they start their careers. If you meet them, please join me in welcoming them to the C&O Canal!
Community Volunteer Ambassador: Ashley Baker
Ashley Baker is a 2-year Americorps volunteer with an Associates Degree in Human Services, a background in mediation and a passion for Lyme Disease awareness and music. After falling ill in 2019 and becoming bedridden, Ashley was misdiagnosed for months until she was finally diagnosed with stage 3 neurological Lyme disease and co-infections. Ashley is now a pioneer in changing the way tick borne diseases are viewed by educating and engaging with the public through music, support groups, and film. Outside of volunteerism and community work, Ashley is an aspiring artist, entrepreneur and actress who enjoys writing and recording music, performing at shows up and down the east coast, and helping other indie artists develop their skills. She wants to help as many people have access to resources that enhance their individual lives, which in the long run changes families, communities, and eventually the world!
Assistant Volunteer Coordinator: Becky McCarty
Becky started her term as the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator in June 2021 and currently lives in Chambersburg, PA. Since graduating from Millersville University in 2017 with a degree in International Studies, she has traveled to Ireland, France, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Becky is passionate about tourism, current events, and history. In her spare time, she enjoys collecting postcards, reading books, and spending summer days at the lake or the beach. You are welcome to reach out to Becky anytime with questions at email@example.com.
Community Volunteer Ambassador: Mariano Guemez
Mariano began his journey with the C&O Canal in June 2021 as a Community Volunteer Ambassador. He is a Latino resident of Washington County, MD and has a passion for the outdoors and wildlife. During his internship with the park, he plans to engage with diverse communities, allowing everyone an opportunity to experience what the park has to offer. It’s a pleasure of his to help others and to be of service for those who just need a helping hand. He is excited to get hands-on with events at the park, learning as much as he can in the process as well as making everyone feel comfortable throughout the park. He loves to hike, camp, bike, fish, and create music.