WILLIAMSPORT, Md. – U. S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today joined officials from the National Park Service and state and local leaders in breaking ground on two restoration projects on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal’s Cushwa Basin designed to preserve historic sites, increase tourism and create jobs in Washington County.
The groundbreaking marked the beginning of efforts to restore the Williamsport Railroad Lift Bridge. The bridge has not been raised since 1924 and, when complete, will be raised to provide access for canal boat traffic to pass underneath. This project, along with a new water intake system and the restoration of the Conococheague Aqueduct, continues the historical restoration of the Williamsport section of the canal.
“The efforts to restore large sections of the C&O Canal show exactly what state, federal and local officials can do when we work together. The C&O Canal is an integral part of Maryland’s history and continues to support jobs through tourism and recreation,” said Senator Cardin. “Western Maryland is quickly becoming a favorite destination for the 10.2 million people who live within a two-hour drive of the region. As we complete more efforts to preserve our history while showcasing the beauty and ingenuity of the C&O Canal, I am sure even more people will visit Western Maryland and discover its many charms.”
Major efforts to restore the Williamsport section of the canal began in 2000 with the restoration of Lock 44 and continued in 2012 with the restoration of Lockhouse 44 and the introduction of launch boat tours.
“Today marks another important milestone in local, state and federal partnership to restore canal operations in Williamsport. When these projects are complete, boats will again be able to lock-through at lock 44 and travel more than a half-mile upstream to the Cushwa Boat Basin,” said C&O Canal NHP Superintendent Kevin Brandt. “This immersive historical experience is part of the park’s innovative Canal Classrooms program and key to getting Every Kid in a Park during the upcoming Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.”
Completing the improvements will allow for a historically-accurate canal launch boat to operate in Williamsport and offer public and curriculum-based interpretive living history programs. The launches will enhance the learning experience and increase the “fun factor” by providing on-the-water tours of the Williamsport boat basin downstream to Lock 44 on the canal. Williamsport will be the only place in North America where visitors can cross over a re-watered stone aqueduct, pass under a railroad lift bridge, and travel down and back up a working lift lock.
“This project is truly a testimony to a wonderful working relationship with federal, state and local governments,” said Williamsport Mayor James McCleaf. “It will provide a huge economic boost to the local economy and Town of Williamsport, providing a true visitor experience of canal life.”