Volunteer Update – May 8, 2020

Hello Level Walkers,
The park remains open, but volunteer activities are still on hold.  Here is another update from C&O Canal Volunteer Coordinator Emily Hewitt.
Also – a reminder – don’t forget to submit your 2021 C&O Canal Calendar candidate photos to the park via Google Drive to chohvip@gmail.com. To do this, compose an email and hover your mouse over the plus sign next to the attachments, click on the drive icon (resembles recycling logo), upload the photos you would like to share, and send to chohvip@gmail.com. If you have any issues with this, please feel free to attach photos to a standard email sent to the same email address.

Please label your photo files with the name of photographer and location.
– Ex. BigSlackwater_Jane_Doe.
The deadline for submission is Friday, June 5th, 2020. If your photograph is selected, you will be contacted and credited in the calendar.
Well Wishes,
Steve

Dear Volunteers,
I hope you have been enjoying the many blooms and blossoms of spring. There is one plant that is pervasive this time of year that is not such a welcome sight. Did you happen to see the post about invasive garlic mustard on the park Facebook page? If you see garlic mustard in your yard or during a walk in the neighborhood, now is the time to pull it before it goes to seed.
Speaking of invasive plant removals (and other volunteer projects) the annual Canal Pride Days events have been postponed due to COVID-19. The C&O Canal Trust is considering how small volunteer events to help the park might take place later in the year. Stay tuned for more information by following the C&O Canal Trust Facebook page.
In April, we highlighted many natural resource opportunities for Earth Month. So this week, Claire has the attached cultural resource piece to share and asks you to consider the following question. As we compare and contrast our present day lives to the recorded experiences of those who came before us, what do you identify as being intrinsically the same, and what is vastly different? Developing Perspective Through Historic Resources
We hope you are enjoying this natural and cultural resource information. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on Facebook or via email.
Please stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt
She/Her/Hers
Volunteer Program Manager
C&O Canal National Historical Park
Emily_Hewitt@nps.gov

Image – Baby Raccoons near Oldtown – Level 62

Volunteer Update – April 29, 2020

Hello Level Walkers!

I hope the approach of May finds you well.

Here is another update from our volunteer coordinator Emily!

Regards, Steve


C&O Canal Volunteers,
I hope you are all doing well and staying safe at home. Here are some park updates and a message from our Superintendent.
Thanks to Cheyenne for compiling some tips and resources on recycling, upcycling, and composting to celebrate the last week of “Earth Month”. See attachment to learn more about these environmentally friendly activities.
Due to rising river levels, Billy Goat Trail A is closed until further notice to ensure visitor safety and resource protection. To keep up with current park closures and conditions, make sure to visit the alerts page on the park website.
Christiana Hanson is settling in as the Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers. For more about Christiana, see the attached press release.
Finally, Park Superintendent Tina Cappetta wanted to share this message with volunteers:
“Hi everyone. I hope you and your loved ones are all well during this trying time for our nation. While this pandemic is unprecedented for our times, I always find myself looking to history for some sort of anchor. Having spent my recent years at Fort McHenry, I cannot help but think of the soldiers who returned from the front lines of WWI to General Hospital No. 2 located at the hospital buildings there, only to battle for their lives again. The legacy of service of heroes like Head Army Nurse Emily Raine Williams who cared for hundreds of wounded soldiers battling the Spanish influenza lives on today. We will see better days soon. I look forward to seeing you on the towpath.” – Tina
Emily H. Hewitt
She/Her/Hers
Volunteer Program Manager
C&O Canal National Historical Park

Image – Sunrise over the Potomac – Level 27

Level Walker Update

Hello Level Walkers!

It’s been a while since I’ve written! My intent was to get in touch with you to kick off the spring, when many level walkers return to the towpath. Of course, the pandemic has affected us all in many ways; I hope you are all coping well and staying healthy.  As you most likely have heard, at the present time, volunteer activities are suspended on the C&O Canal NHP. We’ll update you when that status changes.

Over the past month, I’ve reviewed recent level walker activity and the coverage we provide to the park. I’m happy to report you all have done a great job!  You are a great resource for the park, and the program provides a unique service. Some of you focus on clean-up activities, some delight in the natural aspects of our park, some provide insightful details about the conditions of the towpath and structures, and some cover just about everything.

My review did find that there are some sections of the park that would benefit from more coverage. I am looking at ways to improve coverage in these areas, and if you are interested in other opportunities please let me know.  The levels are throughout the park, and I plan to reach out to some of you individually to discuss possible realignment of assignments.

I recently contacted you individually regarding the National Park Service Volunteer Service Agreements (VSAs). These agreements are a mandatory requirement for all volunteers on national parks, and the NPS now asks that we renew them annually. If I contacted you, and you have already responded, thank you. If I haven’t heard from you I will be reminding you.  You only need to do one, and if you support other programs and included level walking on a VSA for that program, you are covered. In that case, please let me know you did that so I can update your status for the Level Walker program.

If I haven’t contacted you about the VSA, I either missed you for some reason or I may not have you on the list of active level walkers. There are three things needed to stay in the level walker program: the VSA, current C&O Canal Association membership, and recent (within one year) level walking activity.

Over the next few months I will be revising the level walk reporting format. This change is to better address the type of information collected and make it as relevant as possible to the park’s needs. Hopefully it will simplify things a bit, too.

One other note on reports – you may have noticed in the March Along the Towpath that the period of reports covered now ends on the last day of the month before the newsletter is produced – i.e. January 31 for the March issue. This allows more time for production of the article for the newsletter.

I’ll be in touch later, as the season progresses. For now – stay well!


Image – Broad Run Trunk -– Level 13

Cold Weather Activity on the Canal

Hello Level Walkers,

You’ve probably noticed – it’s been a bit on the cold side lately! Even though it is going to warm up next week, winter is by no means over and the cold may well come back.  Many hibernate in the winter, but some of us still get out there in the winter.  A few, like me, actually prefer the winter months on the canal.

If you are one of those who gets out there, the NPS wants us to be safe.  The following advice for safe activities on the canal is provided by the NPS.

Have fun if you get out there, but be careful!

Steve


As the Park begins to resume normal operations  we are in need of your Volunteer support more than ever. Unfortunately this becomes a little difficult with all of the snow and arctic temperatures we are experiencing right now. However, we know our volunteers are extremely motivated and have some of the best ‘can do’ attitudes around, so if you are going outside in theses conditions please be safe! Although parts of the park may resemble a winter wonderland it is still important to be aware of the risks exposure can cause and take precautions to protect yourself. Here is a list of some important tips to keep in mind while working outside in winter weather:

  • Layer clothing to accommodate for changes in weather.
  • Wear synthetic fabrics close to the skin. If conditions are wet, wear waterproof or water-repellent clothing (wet clothing loses 90 percent of its insulating value).
  • Protect the ears, face, hands, and feet in extremely cold or wet weather.
  • Boots should be waterproof and insulated.
  • Brush off snow regularly to avoid moisture.
  • Drink warm, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids and warm solid foods to maintain fluid levels and preserve body heat.
  • Use the buddy system − work in pairs to ensure each other’s safety.
  • Seek shelter at regular intervals to rest and warm up.
  • Include chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
  • Workers showing any signs or symptoms of overexposure should immediately come out of the cold.
  • Use extreme caution if you suffer from a health condition, are taking medication or are in poor physical condition. You may be at increased risk.

Upper Image – Culvert 140, Level 42, March 7, 2015

Safety graphics courtesy of the NPS


working-cold-poster_Page_1

 

working-cold-poster_Page_2

Volunteer Support Guidance

Hello Level Walkers,

The following guidance is provided by the C&O Canal NHP volunteer coordinator, Emily Hewitt.  If you get out there please report any findings to the park as soon as you can.  There is no hurry to submit your level walker report as long as the conditions are sent to the park as requested in the following.

Your support is greatly appreciated!

Steve


Volunteers,
Welcome back to the park! We are eager to get back on track with all of our projects and programs, and we could use your help. As you are out in the park, there are specific conditions that would be helpful to report. Please email your assessments directly to claire_connor@partner.nps.gov
  • TREES – Any downed trees blocking the towpath, or hazard trees leaning precariously over the towpath should be reported with specific location and/or nearest mile marker number and a photo if possible.
  • TRASH – Are there areas that seem particularly trashy that could benefit from a clean-up? Please report the specific location and/or nearest mile marker number, and provide us with an idea of how much trash and what type needs to get cleaned up.
  • TOILETS – Are the port-o-pots and brown building pit toilets in good condition? If not, please report specific location and/or nearest mile marker number for toilets that are in sub-standard condition.
  • BOAT RAMPS – Are the boat ramps in good condition? Is there debris blocking them, or any other hazard that would prevent public use? Please report the location and provide photos if possible.
The park appreciates any assistance you can provide. Please email your reports to claire_connor@partner.nps.gov as soon as possible. Photos are always helpful, so please include them if possible. As always, please work safely. Thank you for your volunteer service!

Resumption of Volunteer Activities

Hello Level Walkers,

As you have no doubt heard, the government shutdown has ended. The National Park Service has advised that we can resume volunteer activities. NPS staff will be busy over the next few days as they resume normal operations.

As you return to the towpath, be watchful of any conditions the park may need to be aware of. You can report any hazards you encounter to https://www.nps.gov/choh/safetyhazardsreportingsystem.htm.

Also, be aware that areas may be closed or access restricted in certain areas. Refer to https://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm for up-to-date status before visiting the park.

Thanks for your support!


Image – Lock 31 and Towpath Below Weverton, Level 21, January 26, 2019

 

 

Level Walker Safety and Volunteer Calendar Photo Submissions

Hello Level Walkers,

It’s hard to believe it is spring, especially with the treat Nature presented us with the first day of spring. Despite the persistent cold, I am already seeing increased level walks.  Thank you for that!

With the onset of the canal season this is a good time to review safety practices.  I will be sending out some general safety reminders in the near future, but for now there are a couple of new potential safety issues that the Park Service wants us to consider when we are out there.

If you come across what appears to be a homeless camp, occupied or unoccupied, during your level walks, do not investigate it, disturb it or attempt to clean up around it. The risk of bio-hazards and other dangers is too great.  You should call park dispatch to report the camp.

Please be extremely careful when you are picking up trash on the park. There is an increased risk of finding drug user materials or residue. This can expose you to very harmful and toxic chemicals that are being used by drug addicts.  The attached safety alert provides you with some of the dangers of trash pickup and some precautions. If you are unable to read or download the file please contact me at levelwalker@candocanal.org and I will send you a pdf version.

Annual Volunteer Calendar Photo Submissions. The following info is sent by the National Park Service:

We are now accepting photo submissions for the 2019 C&O Canal Calendar!

Photos of all parts of the park, through all four seasons will be included in the calendar. So if you have photos of historic structures, flora/fauna, visitors, volunteers, or just about anything else in the park, please submit them!

Once again this year, we ask that you submit your photos via Google Drive to chohvip@gmail.com. To do this, compose an email and hover your mouse over the plus sign next to the attachments, click on the drive icon (resembles recycling logo), upload the photos you would like to share, and send to chohvip@gmail.com. If you have any issues with this, please feel free to attach photos to a standard email sent to the same email address.

Please label your photo files with the name of photographer and location.

– Ex. BigSlackwater_John_Doe.
The deadline for submission is Friday, May 25th, 2018. If your photograph is selected, you will be contacted and credited in the calendar.


Above – Lock 39 detail, Levels 28 and 29, March 8, 2018

Below – Drug Exposure Safety Alert, NPSTrash Pickup and drug exposure

Volunteer Updates

Hello Level Walkers:

Here is some more info for you from the National Park Service.

Locks 5-22 Project: The Locks 5-22 Project began Dec 4, 2017 and will continue for approximately 500 days. Staging in the Great Falls parking lot has begun, and we should start seeing construction activity by the end of the year. Updates for all Park projects can be found on our Project Webpage.

Great Falls Tavern Dates:

  • Dec 24 – Closed
  • Dec 31 – Closed
  • Jan 1 – Open, First Day Hikes
  • Jan 13, 12:30-3:30 – Northern Virginia Mountain Dulcimers
  • Jan 15 – Closed

Fee Free Days 2018

  • Jan 15 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Apr 21 – First day of National Park Week
  • Sept 22 – National Public Lands Day
  • Nov 11 – Veterans Day

Fall/Winter C&O Canal Volunteer Newsletter: This newsletter is issued periodically by the park with info relevant to volunteers. Thanks to Kelsey Smith and Mary Kate Gentile for pulling this newsletter together. Happy Holidays from the HQ Volunteer Office!


Above – Iced over canal at Lock 70, Level 63, February 15, 2015

Welcome Fall!

Hello Level Walkers!

We all have our favorite seasons, and for many of our canal fans fall is at the top of the list.  Some of us prefer to level walk in the cooler months, while for others fall is the end of their canal activities until the spring.  If you are like me and spend even more time on the canal in the fall and winter, err on the side of caution. Ticks never seem to go away and snakes are pretty active in the fall.  Remember the previous blog about copperheads – and google “copperhead in leaves” if you want to see how well they are camouflaged. Exercise care around trees; blustery fall days can result in falling branches. With the emerald ash borer damage, branches seem to be falling with increasing frequency.

Fall marks the end of the federal fiscal year.  With that in mind, if you have any unreported volunteer hours for the last few weeks please get them to me before October 3rd. If you are not ready to do a report, don’t worry, just send me the hours. Volunteer hours are important to the park – they demonstrate public support for the park. As a C&O Canal NHP volunteer you are part of one of the largest corps of volunteers in the park system.

I hope to see a few of you at the park volunteer appreciation dinners.  I will have a few level walker hats, so if you need a hat, make sure you look me up. If you have any questions about the volunteer dinners contact the volunteer coordinator office at the email address provided in the earlier blog.

Thanks for all you do for the C&O Canal!


Above – Lock 34, Level 23, October 18, 2014

Below – Potomac River at Lock 34

Lock 34 river

Levels Going to the Dogs?

Hello Level Walkers,

Here’s a fun request! Many of you report to me that you level walk with your faithful canine friend.  Let’s give credit where credit is due – if you level walk with your dog on a regular basis, let me know. I would like to highlight level walker dogs in the next Along the Towpath issue.  Let me know the name, breed, and whatever else you might want to share.  Send a photo if you have it!

Now – I am a cat guy (sorry about that, dog lovers). I haven’t the nerve to listen to a prolonged yowl from my home in Southern Maryland to Hancock, but if any of you have ever braved the towpath with a cat on a leash or in a tow behind carrier (I’ve seen it) – I’d love to hear about that too! (and your feline friend will get a bag of treats with my compliments.)

Thanks for being great volunteers and supporting our amazing park!


Above photo – Little Pool, nr Hancock Md. – Level 47 – July 10, 2010