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Canal boat accident in 1920. (NPS Photo)Conococheague Aqueduct Rehabilitation Draws $8.9M In Funding

February 2016

In the not-too-distant future, we may be able to see canal boats passing through a watered aqueduct over Conococheague Creek, thanks to $8.9 million in funding commitments from the state of Maryland and the National Park Service.

Last week, the National Park Service allocated $1,330,000 for C&O Canal National Historical Park to rehabilitate the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport, Maryland. The state of Maryland will match the NPS funding with $7,570,000 from the Bikeways Program, Transportation Alternatives Program, and State Bond Bills.

Canal builders completed the Conococheague Aqueduct in 1834. Its berm wall collapsed in 1920, while a Cumberland-bound canal boat was crossing. (NPS photo) A wooden trunk placed in the aqueduct allowed navigation to continue until the canal closed in 1924.

This project will rehabilitate the 196-foot long aqueduct. The aqueduct will be restored to its 1920's appearance.  Rehabilitation will include engineering, safety, and accessibility improvements to the towpath over the top of the aqueduct and a new bridge for accessing the towpath.

“C&O Canal NHP is pleased to be able to implement this project,” said park superintendent Kevin Brandt.  “Rehabilitation of the Conococheague Aqueduct will be the centerpiece of the restored cultural landscape in this area of the park, while also creating a premier historical attraction in Williamsport, Maryland.  I can think of no better way to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service and prepare us for a second century of service than a project that brings together partners on the federal, state and local level.”

2014 photo of Conococheague Aqueduct. (Paul Graunke photo)
Aqueduct in 2014 (Paul Graunke photo)
Historic NPS photo of launch boat crossing Conococheague Aqueduct, prior to 1920 accident.
Boats could cross the aqueduct again. (NPS photo)

Maryland State Senator George Edwards, who sponsored a Maryland State Bond Bill in the 2015 session on behalf of the project remarked,  “The Conococheague Aqueduct project is a great project.  I am glad I was able to get some funding from the state to help out.  When all is complete that is planned, Williamsport will have a tremendous attraction that will draw thousands of people.  I have enjoyed working with the Officials of Williamsport and the National Park Service on this project.”

“This project will support economic development in the state by enhancing Maryland’s attractiveness as a cycling and tourism destination,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn.

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf remarked, “This project exemplifies what’s possible when federal, state, and local officials work together towards a common goal.  For the Town of Williamsport, this is job creation, revitalization, and historic preservation.  We are looking forward to what this project will bring to our town.”

“Enhancements to the C&O Canal National Historic Park in Williamsport are exciting on many levels,” said Dan Spedden, President of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, “The Town of Williamsport and the National Park Service are combining their efforts to preserve our history and heritage, provide an outlet for exploration and recreation, and improving the town's economy through increased visitation and visitor spending. Visit Hagerstown is preparing to promote and advertise Williamsport, Maryland as a first rate travel destination.”

Funding for the project is provided through the NPS Centennial Challenge Program to leverage partnerships to improve visitor services, support outreach to new audiences, and reinvigorate national parks. Congress provided $15 million for the Centennial Challenge projects, which will be matched by almost $33 million from more than 90 park partners. The 69 projects total almost $48 million and are located at 63 parks in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“As the National Park Service enters its centennial year in 2016, Congress and generous partners across the country are making exceptional investments to improve park facilities, enhance their accessibility, and help more visitors especially young people discover our nation’s inspiring places and stories,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.


     C & O Canal Association     P.O Box 366      Glen Echo, MD 20812-0366     Phone: 301-983-0825      Email: inquiries@candocanal.org