Hike service

National Park Service opens new C&O Canal headquarters in Williamsport

WILLIAMSPORT — “What a story to tell.”

“A breath of fresh air.”

“Just the first step.”

Those were among the words Wednesday to describe a new $15 million headquarters for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Williamsport that is now just steps from the popular national park that stretches from Georgetown in Washington, DC, in Cumberland, Md.

Officials who worked on the project said it was a once-in-a-lifetime endeavor and a long list of guests gathered at the site along West Potomac Street on Wednesday morning for a celebratory ceremony. inauguration, although the facility was open to park staff.

Local officials gather for a dedication ceremony at the site of the Canal Donkey statue, now named Paw Paw, outside the new Canal C and O headquarters in Williamsport.

Where was the park headquarters before?

The park’s headquarters was along the Dual Highway in Hagerstown, but in a years-long effort, local, state, and federal officials began to think of something.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the headquarters were right along the canal in Williamsport?

There were road trips, meetings upon meetings, and somehow it all fell into place.

The end result was the construction of the headquarters by Maryland Economic Development Corp. Now the National Park Service will lease it through 2050, officials said at Wednesday’s event.

Many people were involved in the effort, but Robin Summerfield told about 100 people gathered in a tent outside the headquarters that the project would not have happened without several people.

“They worked outside the box and pushed really hard,” said Summerfield, Western Maryland representative for U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

Visitors tour the lobby of the new Canal C and O headquarters in Williamsport after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday.  The public will have access to the lobby and a meeting room.

Among them were former park superintendent Kevin Brandt, city manager Donnie Stotelmyer, Dan Spedden, president of Visit Hagerstown, the local visitors bureau, and Bob Brennan’s work with the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

Brandt has been credited with finding a “loophole” in the regulations that allowed different government organizations to work on such a project.

Local officials had been talking for years about how the location of the headquarters in Williamsport would be a boon to local tourism, which is already reaping the benefits of people coming to the area to hike and bike along the canal. , not to mention the historical and cultural attractions.

Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for the new C and O Canal headquarters in Williamsport.

Tourism jobs here to stay

Spedden told the crowd that jobs in tourism are solid sources of income and will not be shipped overseas like high-tech ones. Tourism already generates millions of dollars in the local economy each year from hotels alone, he said.

The new headquarters brought approximately 70 jobs to Williamsport. It was built on the property of the former Miller Lumber Co., and the work involved restoring a stone house known as the Van Lear House and the Cline House. The Van Lear House dates from around the 1780s to the 1790s, and Brandt had previously thought of developing historical interpretations at headquarters around the life of George Washington, who visited Williamsport in the 1790s.

Background to the story:With a possible nod to Washington, ideas for the canal headquarters are multiplying

Although the new headquarters will include offices for park staff, Lisa Mendelson, deputy regional director for the National Park Service’s Capital Region, promised the crowd that the public will be able to enjoy “creative programming.” as the rest of the idea of ​​the head office site is developed in the coming years.

Park officials have previously said they plan to have attractions for the public at headquarters.

Of the. Mike McKay, R-Washington/Allegany, told the crowd that when God created the human body, he created the perfect machine. Arms work with legs, legs work with the brain and so on, he said.

Local officials and community members attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for the new Canal C and O headquarters in Williamsport.

“It’s this project,” McKay said.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford noted how ideally located Williamsport is to help tell the story of the canal, which was used as a shipping route in the 1800s and 1900s. Lift locks, a railway lift bridge, the Cushwa Basin and the Conococheague Aqueduct, the only watered and operational aqueduct in North America, are along the local stretch of the canal, said Rutherford, who remembers being on the canal as a child.

“I used to skate the canal when I was younger, and later I skated the canal in different places,” Rutherford said.