C&O Canal Volunteer Operations Status Update

Hello Level Walkers,

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.



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 – 
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.

Thank you and stay safe!

Emily Durán Hewitt

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!


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

C&O Canal Update – July 29

Hello Level Walkers,

Here is the latest update from the park.

OBTW – if you have been reactivated you can ignore the note in the below message  – continue to send your hours to me as part of your report and I will submit them.

Thanks for all you do!


Dear Volunteers,
Today is the 50th anniversary of when Public Law 91-357 was enacted to formalize the National Park Service Volunteers-In-Parks program. Happy 50th anniversary! Please see the park Facebook page for a special post about the anniversary. Thank you for being a part of the Volunteers-In-Parks program. We are grateful for your volunteer service!
A reminder that if your program has been re-activated and you are volunteering, please remember to log your hours. It’s been an odd year for sure, but the park will still be required to submit a volunteer report at the end of the fiscal year. Please help us submit an accurate report by logging your volunteer hours.
Finally, please see the attached summer volunteer newsletter. It is full of great content. A huge thanks to Claire for pulling the VIP Newsletter Summer 2020 together before completing her internship!
Thanks & stay well!
Emily Durán Hewitt

Image – Summer morning view from Lookout Point

C&O Canal Update – July 22

Hello Level Walkers,

Here is the latest update from the park.

Before we get to that – I wanted to let you know that I am now authorized to set up the second group of ten level walkers to reactivate. The first group to reactivate has not had any problems, and they’ve done a great job out there!

If you’ve been in touch with me about reactivating you will hear from me soon.  If you haven’t contacted me but are interested in reactivating in the near future, drop me a note.  Just a reminder – if you haven’t reviewed and acknowledged the training material and level walker position description, submitted a revised Volunteer Service Agreement, and received a message from me that you can restart, you are still inactive per National Park Service policies and not ready to participate as a volunteer. You can certainly visit the park; and many of you have sent me informal notes on your observations from their visits.

Thanks for all you do! – Steve

Dear Volunteers,

Again this week, I have staff updates for you:
Claire Connor, who has been the park’s Assistant Volunteer Coordinator since April 2018, is finishing her internship on July 31. Many of you have likely communicated with Claire, and hopefully all of you have received and enjoyed the beautiful C&O calendars she designed. Claire can be reached at chohvip@gmail.com if you would like to send her well wishes. See attached photo of Claire rocking some personal protective equipment.
Cheyenne Sebold will also complete her internship with the Canal Steward Program on July 31. Although she is finishing with the volunteer office, Cheyenne will continue to work for the park in the maintenance division. Cheyenne can be reached at chohcsp@gmail.com if you would like to send her well wishes. See attached photo of Cheyenne working undercover as a bison.
Shelley Albee is joining the C&O staff as a Park Ranger in Williamsport. Shelley comes to the park from Kingsley Plantation at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida. Her National Park Service career began at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Shelley will be taking on the volunteer coordinator role in Williamsport.
A huge thanks to Claire and Cheyenne for all their work with the volunteer program, and a big welcome to Shelley as she joins the park team!
Emily Durán Hewitt

C&O Canal Update – July 1

Hello Level Walkers,
Please see the latest update from the park. There is some news that will be welcomed by many of you – limited volunteer activity is resuming.
I have worked with the park to reactivate limited level walking is selected parts of the park. Ten level walkers are returning to duty in the near future.  If you are interested in returning when the next group is authorized, are able to, and are willing to comply with the requirements, or if you want more information, please contact me via email.
Thanks! Steve

Dear Volunteers,
Please enjoy the interesting facts and beautiful photos found in the “All Eyes on Dragonflies” attachment. The article was drafted by Claire & Cheyenne in honor of volunteer Steve Dean’s annual dragonfly walk that had to be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns this year. Hopefully you can get outside and enjoy spotting some beautiful odonates this holiday weekend. All Eyes on Dragonflies

In the coming days and weeks, the park will be reactivating volunteer programs in phases in order to provide support to park operations in an effective and safe manner. This will be a measured process. The health and safety of our volunteers, visitors, staff, & partners is our top priority.  Not all volunteer programs will restart at the same time, individual volunteer comfort levels will be respected, and we ask everyone to be flexible as we continue to follow the most current guidance from the CDC, OMB/OPM, DOI, and other federal, state, and local health authorities to ensure the ability to effectively on-board, train, supervise, and provide volunteers with a safe work environment.

The park recognizes that volunteers are part of our greater workforce, and important to our mission and operations. Therefore, as part of the phased reactivation:

  • A COVID-19 specific Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) has been completed for all volunteer positions.
  • Volunteer Service Agreements (VSA), including accompanying position descriptions, will be updated to reflect any changes to requirements, duties, risks, and operations prior to reactivating a program.
  • Volunteers will be re-oriented and trained to perform their duties with respect to current health and safety measures and corresponding protocols.

Two major concerns facing the park at this time are trash park-wide and river safety in the Great Falls area. Therefore, small scale trash clean-ups, programs that include trash removal, and programs that involve river safety messaging are being reactivated first. These programs include Canal Pride Days trash clean-ups, Level Walkers, Canal Stewards, EMS volunteers, and Billy Goat Trail Stewards.  These programs are being structured to allow for maximizing physical distancing and limiting in-person contact with park staff or access to government facilities.  If any volunteers do not feel comfortable returning to volunteer service at this time, the park will respect individual decisions.

The park will continue to assess operations support and staff management capacity, and will communicate the status of reactivating other volunteer programs in a phased manner. Thank you for your patience as the park continues to implement an adaptive recovery plan. If you have any questions, please contact your park staff program supervisor.


Stay well,
Emily H. Hewitt

Image – Widow Skimmer – Level 63

Level Walker Updates

Hello Level Walkers,
I hope you all are doing well.  Volunteer activity is still on hold – but that does not mean you can’t go out on the park!  Just remember to check with the NPS alerts page for the most up-to-date information about park facilities, access and safe practices.
Two messages from volunteer program manager Emily Hewitt follow.
Take care, and thanks for all you do!

Dear Volunteers,
I hope you enjoyed a beautiful Earth Day. You might be missing the park, but this week Claire from the VIP office provides us with some tips for connecting with the outdoors through nature journaling. Please see the attachment to see how you can get involved with nature in a creative way.
This is also National Park Week! Keep an eye on the park Facebook page for posts celebrating our national park.
Current park closures have not changed since the last update, except the Billy Goat A trail is open again. To keep up with current park closures and conditions, make sure to visit the alerts page on the park website.
I hope you are staying well.

Park Volunteers,
We are now accepting photo submissions for the 2021 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!
Due to the Maryland stay-at-home order, we are happy to accept photos you may have taken in previous years. Your wellness and safety are most important, so please don’t feel the need to get out now to snap new photos. We’ll take photos from any year in the park!
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_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.
Thank you and stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt
Volunteer Program Manager
C&O Canal National Historical Park

Image – Harpers Ferry 2009 – Level 21