January 2023 Level Walker Update

Hello Level Walkers,

I hope 2023 is off to a great start for you! Like you, I am looking forward to another year of supporting the park.

One of my duties as the level walker chairperson is to monitor compliance with NPS and C&O Canal Association policies. For the NPS policies, I need to ensure that you are up-to-date on any NPS training and job requirements and have a current Volunteer Service Agreement on file. All current volunteers have completed the training/job requirements. The VSAs that were submitted in 2022 or later are still valid. At the present time I have not been informed of a need to update them for 2023. If you missed doing an updated VSA in 2022 I will be checking with you.

The Association requires level walker program participants to be current members and to submit at least one level walk report per year. I will review membership status and level walker activity in February. If your membership has lapsed and/or I have not received a recent report from you I will be in touch to determine if you want to remain in the program.

The NPS will have an all-volunteer call on February 8 as noted in the following announcement. You may note that the level walker program is not directly called out in the Volunteer Program Action Plan. The program is directly managed by the C&O Canal Association, although we are expected to comply with NPS training, certification and regulatory requirements. I coordinate management and reporting of the level walker program directly with the NPS volunteer manager at headquarters.

Thanks for your support! – Steve

Dear Volunteers, 

Happy new year! In 2023, we are holding quarterly all-volunteer calls to provide you with information and updates about the park. We started these virtual meetings because of the pandemic, but have found that it is a great way to connect with volunteers across the park at one time. 

Our 1st quarterly call is scheduled for Wednesday, February 8 from 11:30am-12:45pm and will be held on Microsoft Teams. There is a phone call-in option if you cannot join via computer.

During the call, our staff will introduce themselves and there are many new faces! We will review theVolunteer Program Action Plan and make sure volunteers know what to expect in FY23. Christiana Hanson, Chief of IEV, will be on hand to answer questions. Please try to get into the meeting 5-10 minutes early to allow for any troubleshooting or issues. 

Thanks, and we look forward to “seeing” you on February 8.


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Upcoming Events

Hello Level Walkers!

There are numerous upcoming events in late September and October. The following notices are from Emily Hewitt, the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer Manager. I still plan to be at the Volunteer Appreciation Event on October 22 at Williamsport, and look forward to seeing some of you there.

Thanks, Steve

VIP Speaker Series: Geology along the C&O Canal – Friday, Sept. 30 12:00 p.m

Have you heard of Maryland’s “little Grand Canyon”? Join us on September 30th at 12pm as Rebecca Kavage Adams takes us on a journey of the geology along the C&O Canal. Rebecca is a geologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Whether you are a novice or an enthusiast, Rebecca will share a wealth of interesting information about what makes our area rock!

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Eastern District Volunteer Appreciation Event at the Carderock Pavilion – Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Please RSVP by October 1 if you plan to attend the volunteer picnic at the Carderock Pavilion on October 13th from 4-6pm. To RSVP, please email chohvip@gmail.com and note the program you volunteer with. 

If you cannot make the 10/13 picnic, you are welcome to attend the west district picnic at park headquarters on October 22nd from 2-4pm. Please note that in your RSVP email. 

Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event – Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Please join us for our Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event on October 19th from 5:30-7pm via Zoom. You will have a chance to hear from Superintendent Cappetta, meet new park staff, and hear about this year’s Volunteer of the Year awards!

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Western District Volunteer Appreciation Event at Park Headquarters in Williamsport – Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Please RSVP by October 12 if you plan to attend the volunteer picnic at Park Headquarters on October 22nd from 2-4pm. To RSVP, please email chohvip@gmail.com and note the program you volunteer with. Since the west district picnic is later in October, we are pushing the RSVP deadline back to 10/12. 

Level Walker Notes and April 28 VIP Speaker Series – UPDATE

Hello Level Walkers,

If you are an active level walker you have probably received an email from me recently that updated your volunteer status. Most of you responded promptly and completely – thank you for that! As I noted in the email, I will get back to you when any follow-up activity is required. Please be patient; I have over 100 people to contact.

Also – the NPS has updated the link information for the VIP Speaker Series event on April 28. Please use the following information instead of the information I sent on April 13.

I am receiving numerous spring level walker reports from all parts of the canal. Thanks for your support!


NPS Message: For April in our VIP Speaker Series, Join Cathy Ball for a presentation about her most recent research and discoveries at the Abner Cloud House! 

The presentation will take place Thursday, April 28th @12 PM on Microsoft Teams. There is also a phone call in option for those unable to join via Teams. 

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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