WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today urged the Subcommittee on National Parks of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to support his bill to ensure the continued involvement of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park Historical Park Advisory Commission in decisions that affect the Park. The C&O Canal National Historical Park is managed by the National Park Service (NPS), but the Advisory Commission was established 40 years ago to provide a vital link between the surrounding communities and the NPS in overseeing the operation, maintenance and restoration of the historic park.
In written testimony that was submitted during a hearing of the Subcommittee, the Senator stated: “My bill ensures that the communities located along the 184-and-a-half mile-long C&O Canal National Historical Park have a voice with the National Park Service regarding decisions affecting the administration of the Park. The Commission keeps the people and small businesses most affected by the operation of the C&O Canal National Historical Park informed and involved in the decisions surrounding the Park. Having citizen involved in governmental processes is a hallmark of our democracy and the C&O Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission Act exemplifies the goal of ensuring the public’s role in government decision making.”
In May, Senator Cardin, along with Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, introduced the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission Act, S. 324. The Advisory Commission was first established in 1971 as part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Development Act. Every 10 years Congress must reauthorize the Advisory Commission, which has been reauthorized three times with overwhelming bipartisan congressional support. The Advisory Commission operates at a nominal cost, serving in a purely advisory role to the National Park Service.
“The Advisory Commission has become a model of how communities and the NPS can interact in a way that is beneficial to both,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Over the years, the Advisory Commission has provided an important bridge between the NPS and the communities and has helped provide much needed assistance and support in maintaining and improving the Park.”
The C&O Canal National Historical Park’s contiguous towpath is popular among cyclists, backpackers, day hikers and runners. The Park contains hundreds of historic structures and is essential to the character and economy of several pre-Civil War-era towns like Hancock, Hagerstown, Harpers Ferry, Williamsport and Sharpsburg, all tell the story of how the C&O Canal once served as a crucial East/West commercial link. The Park also preserves pristine views of the Potomac River, evocative of the C&O Canal’s working days.
In 2009, more than 3.75 million people visited the C&O Canal National Historical Park, making it Maryland’s most popular National Park. Much of the Park’s success is attributed to the positive relationship and goodwill that has developed over the years between the NPS and the local community leaders through the Advisory Commission.