C&O Fee Proposal, What’s Next?
The C&O Canal has rescinded a proposal made last month to begin charging entrance fees at all destinations along the trail including the park entrance located just across the bridge near Shepherdstown.
In a statement C&O staff said: “Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal) is revising its proposal to increase and expand entrance and other fees park-wide. Last month the park proposed expanding fee collection to include charging a park-wide recreation fee. At this point, we’re midway through robust public meetings. Having heard concerns over the proposal for new fees, the park has decided to rescind its proposal to expand fee collection.”
During the scheduled public interest meeting held after the announcement, C&O Canal superintendent Kevin Brandt, discussed the park’s plans moving forward.
Brandlt said it’s unlikely the park would again consider charging fees though out the park, (though they’re still under consideration at Great Falls).
“The topic of fees probably won’t come up for several years, if ever.” he said.
Brandt said the organization may consider anything from donation boxes to new fundraising programs.
Though some wonder if the decision to pull the proposal was premature, Brandt said its in the park’s interest to stay responsive to public sentiment.
“We listen to our communities,” he said.
“I want to be able to work with the members of congressional delegation, the county commissioners, the mayors and town councils,” he said.
Brandt discussed potential alternatives to the funding fees would have provided for things like improvement of towpath conditions, maintenance of campgrounds and the clearing of hazardous trees.
You do the best with whatever funds come to us by donation or appropriation, he said in an interview Wednesday night.
According to Brandt the park’s budget has been reduced by at least $1.1 million in the last five years.
Brandt said he encourages continued volunteerism by the public as it serves as a major asset to the park and its continued function with or without additional funding.
“We have over 4,000 volunteers who contribute about 80,000 hours,” he said.
“Those volunteers represent about a third of the workforce, so its a huge benefit to the park,” he said
The C&O canal is the 9th most popular national park in the country, with over 5 million visitors per year.
“When the canal was in operation it was at the very core of the communities it passed through….Because we understand the importance of the canal now to these communities, we try to keep a pretty tight ear to how they feel,” he said.
“Some of these communities are very good about trying to go out and get funds that allow us to make improvements because they recognize that if the park is a better place, their community will be better off for it.”
Those interested in donating to the C&O can still do so by becoming a ‘friend’ to the canal and giving money to the Canal Trust, the park’s official nonprofit partner.
Find out more information about the Canal Trust by visiting CanalTrust.org/friend. Questions regarding fees and the C&O can be directed to John Noel at 304-714-2201.