C&O Canal Volunteer Status for February 18th

Hello Level Walkers,

Please observe the following guidance from the C&O Canal NHP volunteer manager.


Dear Volunteers, 
The forecast is for more snow! With the wintry weather starting overnight, the volunteer program is suspended on Thursday, February 18. 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 Thursday, February 18 you must do so as a private citizen. For updates on park closures please check the park website or the park Facebook page

Thank you and stay safe!

Emily Durán Hewitt

C&O Canal Update – February 10, 2021

Hello Level Walkers,

Here is an update from the park.

Thanks, Steve


Dear Volunteers, 


There is a winter storm warning in our area through tomorrow morning. All volunteers should exercise caution if visiting the park tomorrow. If you plan to volunteer in the Great Falls area of the park, please note that the entrance road will be closed in the morning until staff can clear it. We will notify Palisades volunteers tomorrow when the entrance road reopens. You can also check the park Facebook page for updates. 

Please note that the Presidents Day holiday is this coming Monday, February 15. Our 2021 C&O calendar has the wrong date of 2/22 listed for the holiday. Sorry for the confusion. We still have 2021 calendars available, so please let staff know if you would like one. 

As you know this year is the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. In case you missed it, we released a new video celebrating the park – Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP 50th Anniversary. Stay tuned for more information on how to celebrate our 50th Anniversary with a series of #50for50″ challenges in 2021!

Thank you and stay safe!

Emily Durán Hewitt

National Park Service Mask Guidance

Hello Level Walkers,

The following National Park Service.information is passed on from Emily Hewitt, the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer program manager.

Thanks for your support!

Steve


Dear Volunteers,

On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order No. 13991. To protect the health of those who live, work, and visit our national parks and facilities, and in support of the President’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, face masks are now required in all National Park Service (NPS) buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails, overlooks, and historic homes. This mask requirement includes NPS volunteers, staff, contractors, and the general public. Masks are not a replacement for physical distancing. Please continue to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you and those not in your household while volunteering.

When they are required (inside park facilities and outside when physical distancing is not possible) masks must cover the nose and mouth and meet CDC and OSHA guidance. For employees and volunteers, Department of Interior (DOI) will not allow novelty/non-protective masks, masks with ventilation valves, face shields as a substitute for masks, or masks with messages or graphics that DOI prohibits. 

The NPS and the park will continue to provide information to the public and our volunteers as new guidance comes out. The park has already shared NPS messaging on our Facebook page and the NPS issued a news release. The park will also be posting signs in key locations. Please remember that a volunteer’s role is NOT to enforce regulations. It is acceptable to politely inform a visitor one time that masks are now required in national parks when physical distancing is not possible, but if a visitor does not comply, prioritize your own safety by maintaining physical distance and moving away from the individual. Again, volunteers are not authorized to enforce regulations. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you for your service to the park, and please stay safe.

Little Tonoloway Bridge reopens in Hancock

The following notification is from the National Park Service regarding the canal crossover bridge in Hancock at Mile 124.38.


HANCOCK, Md. — Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park has replaced the bridge span at Little Tonoloway Day Use and Recreation Area and will reopen the crossing over the canal  to traffic in the afternoon on Friday, Jan. 15.  

The bridge had been closed to vehicle traffic since Nov. 2019 when engineers discovered that its beams were severely corroded during a routine inspection. The National Park Service (NPS) had been planning to replace the bridge and we worked with the Federal Highway Administration to do the work sooner than originally scheduled.  

In order to finish this project, the NPS will return to repave the bridge’s approaches when there is warmer weather. When that work happens, the Little Tonoloway Day Use and Recreation Area restrooms and picnic area will remain open, but the boat ramp will be temporarily inaccessible via vehicles.   


Image – Canal in Hancock – Level 48

Update – Volunteer Operations Due to Inclement Weather

Update on the park’s storm activity status, from the NPS. Thanks, Steve


Dear Volunteers, 
We hope you have been enjoying this snow day and staying safe & warm! With the wintry weather continuing through the night, the volunteer program is suspended through Thursday, December 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. 
As with today, if you choose to visit the park on Thursday, December 17 you must do so as a private citizen. Currently the Great Falls entrance road is closed due to snowy conditions. For updates on the closure please check the park website or the park Facebook page

Thank you and stay safe!
Emily Durán Hewitt

Important park update – Snow day

All,

The following is an important message from the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer Manager.

Thanks, Steve

//BT

Dear Volunteers, 
In anticipation of the winter storm that is forecast for Wednesday, December 16 the park is suspending volunteer operations. 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 during this weather event, you must do so as a private citizen. We will send another update tomorrow about the status of volunteer program operations for Thursday, December 17. 
Thank you, stay well, and stay safe. 
Emily Durán Hewitt

Image – Four Locks snow from Lock 49 House – Level 41

C&O Canal Volunteer Status – November 13

Hello Level Walkers,

The following updated is provided by the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer Program Manager Emily Hewitt regarding volunteer activity. As noted, please conduct your activities as safely as possible, or put them on hold if you are concerned about the increase in Covid-19 transmission.

Thanks, Steve


The park is monitoring the rise in coronavirus cases in Maryland & D.C. Currently reactivated volunteers will remain active but are asked to use prudence when considering whether to volunteer in the park. Areas of the park that see high visitation should be avoided during this rise in coronavirus cases. The park understands if any active volunteers wish to pause their volunteering due to health concerns. For all active volunteers, the park strongly recommends that they wear a face covering. Volunteers must also maintain a minimum of 6 feet of distance from other people.  

Level Walker Program Updates

Hello Level Walkers!

There has been a great deal of activity lately as we reactivate volunteer activity. This update is intended to update or clarify a few of the aspects related to level walking. With no further ado –


Communications – Since early 2017, I have used this blog to post relevant information about the park and the Level Walker program. This is not an official C&O Canal Association or National Park Service blog; it is privately administered by me in my role as the Level Walker chairperson. It has a number of advantages – it is more secure than a mass email mailing (risk of inadvertent release of people’s email addresses); it provides an on-line archive of all information I post; and supports rapid transmission of information.

To receive the updates, you only need to provide your email in the FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL block on this page. You will not receive junk mail or be added to any list for doing this, you will simply receive the updates when I post them. One note about the emails you receive – they are NOT sent by me. They are automatically generated by WordPress. If you respond, I will not receive your response. You can email me separately if you ever have a question about one of the posts.


Level Walker Status – We recently received permission to reactivate all level walker assignments. I have tried to reach out to all of you who have recently been active, but of course I may have missed someone. If you haven’t heard from me, please contact me. If you have received an email from me but have not responded, please let me know if you intend to return to level walking or want to take a break. If you don’t respond after a while I will assume you intend to discontinue level walking.

You must satisfy all requirements to reactivate and maintain your status as an active level walker. As with all C&O Canal National Historical Park volunteer activities, the Level Walker program has a unique mission and its own requisites for a volunteer to participate. Some are the same or similar to other programs, but all must be verified before you can be activated as a level walker and remain one. The requirements are:

  1. You need to be a C&O Canal Association member. (Association)
  2. You must complete and submit a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA). Any pre-COVID VSAs are invalid at this point. (NPS)
  3. You must complete any training requirements that the NPS invokes. (NPS)
  4. You need to be an active level walker, which means walking your level(s) – and filing a report – at least once a year. (Association)

As noted above, Requirements 1 through 3 are mandatory, and if you do not fulfill them for any reason, then we must exclude you as a volunteer. The VSA is particularly important. It is a U.S. Government form (OF301a) that is submitted directly to the NPS, and is required of all NPS volunteers. If you do not complete it you are not covered in the event of any injury or other incident. Note that you only need to complete one VSA for the C&O Canal NHP; if you have done one for another C&O Canal NHP program your level walker assignment can be added to the VSA by the NPS volunteer program manager. In that event, I need to know that you have done that.

We have a little more flexibility with Requirement 4. If you need to take a break from volunteer activity because of medical or personal reasons but intend to return as a volunteer later, you can let me know and I will keep you on the level walker list in a “hold” status. Otherwise, after a period of time I drop you from the volunteer list. Remember – I need to have a report from you to count it as a level walk.

Some people are also being careful about the COVID-19 pandemic and holding off on volunteer activity. That is a very valid concern. In that case you can still complete the reactivation requirements so they are out of the way, but remain on hold.


Level Walk Reports – The majority of you provide your reports by email. A select few submit paper reports. The level walker report is an evolving process and new reporting criteria will roll out around the first of the calendar year. All reports are filed and retained – and are greatly appreciated. One thing to note – I can’t always quickly respond to reports due to schedule and email volume. If something in your report requires immediate attention please put URGENT in the subject line.


Level Walker Program Activity – As a federal agency, the park tracks volunteer activity by the number of hours over a fiscal year. For Fiscal Year 2020 (1 October 2019 to 30 September 2020), the Level Walker program reported the following:

Volunteer hours – 848
Volunteers – 79 (note – this includes family and friends who participated in level walks
Level walks – 224
Trash bags (equivalent) – 92

This is a little less activity than normal, but the program was effectively shut down for four months. It is still a significant contribution to the park. Thanks for all you do to be part of the team!


That’s all for now. I am still waiting to reactivate a few level walkers. Once I do that I will be requesting support for some underserved levels throughout the park. This will be either on a temporary or permanent basis.

Steve


Image – Dam 4 in autumn – Level 32

C&O Canal Update – October 8

Hello Level Walkers!

Here is a note from the Volunteer Program Manager.

As always, thanks for all you do!

Steve



Dear C&O Canal Volunteers, 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service Volunteers-In-Parks program. Unfortunately we are not able to hold the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinners due to COVID-19. However, we would still like to take this opportunity to thank you for volunteering with the C&O Canal National Historical Park to help preserve park resources and improve visitor experiences. 
We put together a video slideshow to highlight volunteer activities in the park. Special thanks to Kelsey Cooke, Kara Bourland, and Claire Connor for their work on the slideshow. We hope you enjoy it! 
We also have the 2021 park calendar available. Special thanks to Claire Connor for designing another beautiful calendar before the completion of her internship. The calendar is available for pick up from Great Falls, Williamsport, and Cumberland during the following times:

  • Great Falls – Saturdays through November 7th from 10am-3pm – Calendars will be available from staff at the visitor contact table outside the Tavern or call 301-767-3710 when you arrive and staff will come outside
  • Williamsport – Saturdays and Sundays through October from 10am-3pm – Calendars will be available from staff at the visitor contact table outside Cushwa warehouse
  • Cumberland – Please contact Stephanie Siemek for available pick up times. In the near future : Cumberland Visitor Center next Wednesday to Friday from 8AM to 4PM (10/14-10/16). The Visitor Center is still closed; therefore, please call her once you have arrived at (301) 491-2597. 

This has certainly been a strange year, and missing out on the Volunteer Appreciation Dinners this month is no exception. Thank you for your continued support of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, and here’s to hoping things will look different in October 2021. 

Stay well,  
Emily Durán Hewitt – Program Manager