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.


Image – Dam 4 in autumn – Level 32

C&O Canal Update – August 19


Here is the latest update from the park.

Thanks, Steve

Dear Volunteers,
Here is the latest news –
The Billy Goat Trail-A is back open, but Billy Goat Trail-C is still closed due to hazard trees.
The National Park Service is offering the following training opportunity. Please note, this webinar is not being conducted by C&O Canal staff. It is being offered by the NPS Horace M. Albright Training Center. The NPS and You–An Introduction to the NPS Mission Webinar: Join this webinar on August 26 from 2:30 – 4:30 PM or September 9 from 2-4 PM to explore foundational concepts that contribute to the success of all employees, volunteers, and partners to meet the mission of the National Park Service. During this two-hour webinar, you will look at what makes a park unit nationally significant and build connections between the work you do and the mission of the National Park Service. They will also cover how to find additional resources for you to continue your orientation to the agency after the webinar. The webinar is open to all employees, volunteers, and partners.
Click HERE to register for the August 26 webinar, or click HERE to register for the September 9 webinar. 
The park recently shared the Volunteer Program Action Plan, and we are holding listening sessions to answer questions about the Action Plan. Please email emily_hewitt@nps.gov if you would like to participate in a session. There are still several spots available in each of the following sessions:

  • August 20 @ 10:30am via conference call 
  • August 24 @ 8:30am via Microsoft Teams
  • August 31 @ 9am via conference call

Thank you and stay well,
Emily Durán Hewitt

C&O Canal Update – June 24, 2020

Hello Level Walkers,

Here is the latest park update.

Thanks, Steve

Dear Volunteers,
Park staff continue to work hard to bring operations back online. Status as follows:
  • The 5 drive-to campgrounds are now fully open. Campsites must be reserved through http://www.recreation.gov
  • Hiker-biker campsites from Horsepen Branch to Evitts Creek are open.
  • Swains Lock campsites remain closed.
  • Carderock Pavilion is closed and not available for reservations at this time.
  • The digital pass for Great Falls is now available. A 7 day or annual pass for Great Falls can be purchased by clicking HERE.
  • Visit the park website for complete details on current park conditions.
These days canawlers and railroad enthusiasts get along pretty well. The park even participates in the Trails & Rails program on Amtrak when there isn’t a pandemic. As we all know, however, the canal and the railroad were not always friends. This week Claire has put together the attached article that explores the transportation legacy of the C&O Canal and B&O Railroad. Exploring Transportation Legacy Also, if you have any young railroad enthusiasts in your circle, there is a new Railroad Explorer Junior Ranger booklet that they may enjoy.
Stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt

Image – Doe Gully Western Maryland Railway Bridge – Level 53

C&O Canal Update – June 10, 2020

Hello Volunteers!

Here is the latest update from the park.

Best regards, Steve

Dear Volunteers,
Here are the latest updates on park status –
  1. The Great Falls entrance road is open.
  2. Great Falls, Carderock, and Fletchers Cove parking is open.
  3. All of the public restrooms in the Palisades District are now open.
    1. Great Falls Maryland
    2. Anglers
    3. Carderock East
    4. Carderock West
    5. Fletcher’s Cove
  4. As of 6/10, well pumps are beginning to be opened. Well pumps in Frederick, Washington, and Allegeny Counties should be fully operational by 6/20.
  5. Drinking fountains in Palisades will remain off until further notice.
For a complete list of alerts, please visit the park website.
In other news, do you know what malacology is? To find out, see Claire’s attached article for a fun natural resource lesson! If you spot any creatures that fit in that category, send us a photo. Claire would be thrilled! Snail Discoveries
Please stay well, and if you visit the park remember to stay safe and practice social distancing.
Emily H. Hewitt
6 ft bicycle

Image – Snail on Towpath near Culvert 71 – 1 April, 2017 – Level 17

C&O Canal Volunteer Update – June 3, 2020

Hello Level Walkers! … Here’s this week’s update from the park’s volunteer office.


Dear Volunteers,
This Saturday is National Trails Day! It is typically a day each year to celebrate the benefits of trails in public lands across the country.  Although we cannot do our volunteer projects to celebrate National Trails Day this year, we would still like to highlight our beautiful towpath and the many wonderful trails that our local public lands afford us. Please see Cheyenne’s attached write-up about our trails (including an ice cream trail!) and National Trails Day. National Trails Day Volunteer Communications
If you have been along the towpath in the last several months, you may have noticed that our iconic mileposts received some much needed attention. Volunteers Jim Tomlin, Meredith Matczak, and Mike Bucci painstakingly scraped, cleaned, and painted all of the mileposts along the towpath. To learn more about the history of the iconic mileposts, see Claire’s attached article “Tracing Towpath Mileposts Across Time.” Tracing Towpath Mileposts Across Time (1)
Although we all love this park and want to get back to helping take care of it, the volunteer program continues to be suspended until further notice. If you get out in the park this National Trails Day, you need to do so as a private citizen. Thank you for your patience as the park works to assess and mitigate risk. We will keep you informed as the park moves forward with adaptive recovery of operations and programs.
Please stay safe and stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt

Volunteer Update – May 22

Hello Level Walkers!

The wonderful people in the volunteer office have been busy this week! I have three things to share with you.



Dear Volunteers,
There have been no changes to the park closures. To review the status of park operations, please visit the alerts page on the park website. You can also continue to stay informed by following the park Facebook page.
This week the Volunteer Office would like to offer you opportunities to explore the park and consider some learning opportunities, both from the comfort and safety of your home. Attached is a C&O Canal virtual scavenger hunt to test your knowledge of the park. Thanks to Claire, Cheyenne, and Kara for producing the virtual scavenger hunt! Scavenger Hunt Activity
Also attached is an article from volunteer Lowell Markey with resources you can use to learn more about the NPS, history, interpretation, and more. Thanks to Lowell for the great write-up! LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NPS VOLUNTEERS
We hope you enjoy these opportunities, and feel free to let us know how you did on the virtual scavenger hunt!
Emily H. Hewitt

Volunteers & Staff,
You still have 2 weeks to submit photos for the 2021 calendar. Please send us your beautiful shots of all things C&O Canal.
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


In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Volunteers-In-Parks program, we are making a video to celebrate our most valuable asset – you! As such, we are requesting pictures new and old to make a short video to celebrate the rich VIP programs at the C&O Canal. The video will be featured on the park’s social media and website, so please only make a submission if you are comfortable with being featured online!

Please print (or make your own version!) of the attached “I Volunteer Because…” document, and provide your own brief statement about what volunteering means to you. Have someone take a picture of you in your VIP uniform holding the “I Volunteer Because…” sheet. Send the picture to us at chohvip@gmail.comI volunteer because

We also welcome pictures from throughout your time volunteering at C&O Canal, so if you have any standout pictures or memories of your time here, send them our way!

We are accepting submissions until June 6. Depending on the number of submissions, we may not be able to include all we receive in the video project, however, your photos may be used for future digital creations, like at appreciation dinners or other social media posts. If you have any further questions, please let us know at chohvip@gmail.com .

Thank you for your service as a volunteer at C&O Canal, and we look forward to seeing your submissions and collaborating on this project!


Claire Connor, Kelsey Cooke, and Kara Bourland

Volunteer Update – May 15

Hello all!
Here is another update from Emily, our awesome volunteer manager at the C&O Canal.

Dear Volunteers,
I hope you are enjoying the sunshine as we finally get a little respite from all the rain. As we all know, flooding is a fact of life on the C&O Canal. This week, Cheyenne put together the attached information on how you can help with stormwater management. Maybe we can all use these sunny days to add some fun projects to our backyard to-do lists. Stormwater Volunteer Communications
The park’s new Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers is settling in to her new role in the park. Please see the attached message from Christiana Hanson to all of you. Message to Volunteers from Christiana
Enjoy the nice weather and stay well!
Emily H. Hewitt
Volunteer Program Manager
C&O Canal National Historical Park

Image – Historic Mile Marker 22 – Level 9

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
Volunteer Program Manager
C&O Canal National Historical Park

Image – Sunrise over the Potomac – Level 27

Annual Volunteer Dinners

Hello Level Walkers,

The following message is from the Volunteer Coordinator for the C&O Canal NHP.  The volunteer dinners are a great opportunity to meet park staff and your fellow volunteers.

Dear Volunteers,
Please save-the-date for this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinners. To RSVP for the dinner, please email chohvip@gmail.com and indicate which dinner you will attend, which program(s) you are with, how many will be in your party, and if you will be bringing a dessert for the annual dessert contest.
Dates and locations for this year’s dinners are as follows:
  • Cumberland on October 2nd from 5:45pm – 9pm at the Western Maryland Railroad Station
  • Williamsport on October 3rd from 5:45pm – 9pm at the Springfield Barn
  • Palisades on October 10th from 5:45pm – 9pm at the Glen Echo Park Bumper Car Pavilion