C&O Canal Volunteers-In-Parks Speaker Series Program Presents: “OneHealth: Your Health & the Park’s Health”

Hello Level Walkers – the following notification is from the National Park Service. Contact Kelsey Smith, Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, at chohvip@gmail.com to RSVP – LWC

Potomac, MD – On April 23, 2017, at 11 a.m: What role do invasive plants play in the emergence of Lyme disease? How does trash serve as a breeding ground for mosquitos? Why is the “dogs on leash” policy a way to protect visitors from rabies?  For Park RX day, Susan Howard, Palisades Bike Patrol Volunteer, a seasoned international public health professional, also pursuing a PhD in environmental science, will give a talk on the intersection of wildlife, ecosystem and human health, called ‘One Health’, where she will discuss the link between conservation stewardship and how zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease, mosquito-borne infections, and rabies spread when ecosystem integrity is imperiled by human actions.

The 184.5 miles of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) is a living laboratory to not only stimulate an understanding among visitors of history and the human industrial pursuits that prompted its creation, but a place to promote the interconnectedness of all living things, particularly the interaction between wildlife, humans and ecosystems in both health and the emergence of disease.   

Ms. Howard is an active volunteer with the US National Park Service as a Palisades Bike Patrol Volunteer and has been involved in efforts to develop a One Health Plan for the C&O Canal since 2015.   As a PhD student in environmental science at George Mason University, she is interested in studying the role that interactive videos and games might have in fostering desirable One Health behaviors and practices including conservation stewardship in National Parks. Ms. Howard will share recommended risk reduction precautions and practices for park visitors; as well as preventive public health actions and conservation measures for park volunteers and employees.

The program is free, but there is an entrance fee to the park of $10.00 per single vehicle. Space is limited to the first 25 guests. If you would like to attend this event, please RSVP with your name and how many will be in your party. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Kelsey Smith, Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, at chohvip@gmail.com.

Photo – Four Locks, Locks 49 and 50 from Lock 48; April 6, 2017 – Level 41

The Paw Paw Tunnel and Facebook

This is a slightly better set of topics than the previous post. Everyone loves the Paw Paw Tunnel, right?  And many of us use Facebook.  I have to admit, I am a slow embracer, but I’ve recently delved back in to it after a sabbatical, and delight that you can find anything you need there, including and especially timely information about our wonderful park.

The park has an excellent Facebook page.  It is well laid out, with excellent photographs, well written content, relevant information, and is just plain fun to peruse sometimes.  It is the fastest way to find out information or status, and questions are answered promptly.  If you are a Facebook user, search for Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park; if you are not try, https://www.facebook.com/chesapeakeandohiocanal/

The Paw Paw Tunnel is going to be closed for a period of time, starting in June. This closure is necessary to allow contractors to do some very important work to mitigate the situation that has been causing rocks to fall, and make the towpath safer for users.

The tunnel and towpath are currently open. Last week the contractor began surveying the construction area and have begun the assessment/design process. The tunnel and towpath will remain open for the duration of this process.

 It’s anticipated that the contractor will mobilize and close the towpath and tunnel around the beginning of June. The towpath and tunnel will remain open until that time. Updates have gone up on the website and are in the process of being shared with the public about the adjusted timeline. You can view the project page on the park’s website: https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/pawpaw-closure.htm 

And – of course – you can keep up on the situation by visiting the park’s Facebook page periodically! An update and some excellent photos were posted today.

Photo – Paw Paw Tunnel upstream portal; June 20, 2012 – Level 57


Trash and Invasive Plants

Catchy title, right? Hopefully you take the time to read this, because they are important topics.

Trash – we all love it – generally not!  I will say I found a $20 bill once amongst the trash; had a nice lunch that day!  Beyond that, I am not a fan of trash. Invasive plants – likely to strike up a healthy debate among many Association members.

The National Park Service appreciates what we do, rest assured of that.  However, they are seriously understaffed, especially in the maintenance area.  They have their hands full maintaining the towpath, structures and facilities.  They aren’t able to get out on the towpath as much as they would like, and they are also trying to reduce the amount of driving they do on the towpath to minimize the impact of truck traffic on the towpath.

For this reason, The NPS has asked me to request that you limit the amount of trash that you pick up to what you can haul off.  If you leave a pile of trash or debris along the towpath or at a site, it could be days before they can get to it.  In that event it becomes an eyesore for visitors and a source of complaints. We also don’t want to add to their already high workload. I recommend that you focus on the trash on the towpath and most visible; we can only do so much.

As with all National Park Service policies, I ask that you respect them and follow the policies and guidance passed on the NPS.

The second part of this message is passed on by the National Park Service, and pertains to a training opportunity related to invasive plants.  This message is passed on by Cyrus Chimento, the new Invasive Plants and Restoration Volunteer Coordinator at the C&O Canal National Historical Park, taking over from Kristi Shelton.  Those of us who met or worked with Kristi know that she is yet another one of the park’s amazing interns; she asked us to monitor emerald ash borer damage last year. I look forward to working with Cyrus as well. The message follows:

This past year, the Kristi has worked to reinvigorate C&O Canal NHP’s Weed Warrior program. This program teaches and certifies volunteers to maintain the natural vegetation of the C&O Canal by removing non-native invasive plants throughout the park. The C&O Canal is home to many different ecosystems and hundreds of rare, threatened and endangered species, so controlling the spread of invasive species is a critical effort that the park needs the support of volunteers to carry out. 

I wanted to extend an invitation to any volunteers in your programs that might be interested in helping to manage the vegetation along the canal to attend the Weed Warriors Training session. I am holding the Weed Warriors Training session on Friday, May 5th, 2017 at Great Falls Tavern, from 9:30am to 1:30pm. 

The training will start with a presentation indoors and, following a lunch break, some time outside around the Tavern for demonstrations and IDs. Those that complete the training will receive certification to remove specific invasive species in their chosen section of the park, Volunteer Service Agreements, and access to online resources compiled for specific species and sections of the park.There is limited space so please let us know as soon as possible if want to attend (RSVP below). The parking fee at Great Falls Tavern will be waived for those attending this training.

RSVP: chohweedwarrior@gmail.com

Volunteers who attend training should bring:

  • Lunch
  • Sturdy shoes suitable for the outdoors
  • Sturdy clothes suitable for the outdoors
  • Water
  • Sun protection

Photo – Culvert 141 outflow with flora – native or invasive?; June 1, 2013 – Level 42