Important park update – Snow day


The following is an important message from the C&O Canal NHP Volunteer Manager.

Thanks, Steve


Dear Volunteers, 
In anticipation of the winter storm that is forecast for Wednesday, December 16 the park is suspending volunteer operations. The park will be open to the public, but volunteers are not authorized to work in the park. This is to ensure your safety during the inclement weather event. All staff in the division of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers will be teleworking and only emergency staff will be onsite. 
If you choose to visit the park during this weather event, you must do so as a private citizen. We will send another update tomorrow about the status of volunteer program operations for Thursday, December 17. 
Thank you, stay well, and stay safe. 
Emily Durán Hewitt

Image – Four Locks snow from Lock 49 House – Level 41

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 – 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 – 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 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 – August 13

Hello Level Walkers,

Here is the latest update from the park.
Thanks, Steve

Dear Volunteers, 
Here is the latest park news:

  • The Billy Goat A & C trails are still closed due to hazard trees caused by the tropical storm. Tree crews have been working to clear the trees this week and the park anticipates being able to open Billy Goat A by this weekend. When the trail is open, the park will update the alerts page on the website. 
  • Damage to the Seneca Aqueduct railing was discovered, but park Maintenance has already repaired the railing and the Seneca Aqueduct is passable.  
  • For FY19, the park nominated the C&O Canal Trust for the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service for a Group. We are pleased to announce that the Canal Trust won the regional award! Their work with volunteer projects such as Canal Pride Days and groups such as TeenWorks provide communities opportunities to engage in stewardship of the C&O Canal resource. The Canal Trust Quartermasters program has long been a successful way to engage volunteers in the protection and maintenance of the restored Canal Quarters lockhouses. A big congratulations to the C&O Canal Trust for this prestigious volunteer award!

Stay well, 
Emily Durán Hewitt

C&O Canal Update – August 5th


I hope everyone got through the storm without problems. Here’s an update from the park.

Thanks, Steve

Dear Volunteers,

The park fared pretty well during Tropical Storm Isaias. A number of trees did come down in the park, and both Billy Goat Trails A & C are closed due to fallen trees that will be cleared by park staff as soon as possible. When those trails reopen, the park will update the alerts page on the website.

If you decide to visit the park this week, be aware and stay safe. Check the park Facebook page before your visit for the latest conditions.

Stay well,  Emily Durán Hewitt

Image – hazard downed tree on the canal – photographer and location not identified

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 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 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 15, 2020

Hello Level Walkers!
Here is another update from the park. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both Linzy and Brendan – and I know many of you have too. Naturally, I am sad to see them move on, but happy for them that they are moving along their career paths.
The first group of reactivated level walkers has been busy!  I’m looking forward to seeing more of you get back out there; many of you asked about that and will hear more from me soon.

Dear Volunteers,

Last weekend, the C&O Canal Trust held a successful trash clean-up event. Volunteers collected a total of 45 bags of trash from 5 locations in Palisades: Fletchers Cove, Chain Bridge, Carderock, Anglers, and Great Falls. The Canal Trust is holding another trash clean-up event in the middle and west districts of the park on 7/25. For more info and to sign up visit the Canal Pride Days website.
This week I have exciting news to share with you about two of our park staff:
  • Linzy French, Assistant to the Superintendent, has accepted a promotion at Cape Cod National Seashore! Beginning in August, Linzy (who has been with C&O for 6 years) will be the Visual Information Specialist at Cape Cod. If you would like to send congratulations, she can be reached at
  • Brendan Wilson, Supervisory Park Ranger in Georgetown, has accepted a promotion at Vicksburg National Military Park! Beginning in August, Brendan (who has been with the park for 4 years) will be the Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Partnerships at Vicksburg. If you would like to send congratulations, he can be reached at
We at C&O Canal are sad to see such great colleagues go, but we are so excited for Linzy and Brendan and their new opportunities!
Emily H. Hewitt