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Big Slackwater Groundbreaking

A selection of National Park Service photographs from the ceremony appear below this article, which was adapted from the September 2010 issue of Along The Towpath.

Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt was master of ceremonies at the groundbreaking celebration on August 7, 2010, for the restoration of the towpath along Big Slackwater above Dam #4 near Williamsport, Md. The event was well attended by canal supporters and officials.

Among the day's groundbreakers were: Sen. Mikulski's staff rep. Juliana Albowiicz, Washington County Commissioner John Barr, C&O Park Supt. Kevin Brandt, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Canal Trust Pres. Matt Logan, Cianbro Corp. rep Michael McGeady, C&O Canal Association Pres. Dward Moore, St. Sen. Don Munson, Pres./CEO Hagerstown-Wash. County Visitors Bureau, Tom Riford, Rep. Bartlett's chief of staff, Bud Otis, and Md. Dept. of Transportation Sec. Beverley Swain-Staley.

As Kevin Brandt observed: "The path to success has been through an exemplary partnership between the federal, state and local governments, park visitors and the business communities, all of whom passionately support and appreciate the C&O Canal National Historical Park."

Kevin also pointed out the C&O Canal Association's role in the timely provision of a grant to the C&O Canal NHP to help fund the required Environmental Assessment. The EA is prerequisite for initiating the project. It was necessary to have the Big Slack project "shovel ready" for it to be eligible for the 12K appropriation that was obtained for the project. The opportunity was fleeting but the park under Kevin's leadership did not let the critical moment slip away. The funds were awarded under the economic recovery program.

The Association has long realized the need for repair of the Big Slack towpath and that it was growing more and more pressing. Its campaign for towpath restoration at Big Slackwater began in earnest five years ago under then president Bob Perry. We adopted the slogan, "No Slack at Big Slack" crafted by long-time Association and board member, Ed Miller. Former Association president, Tom Perry, headed the Big Slack committee of leading citizens and directed efforts to win public support for the repair.

The 2.4 mile break along Big Slackwater put a dent in the continuity of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Before the break developed the park could justly boast that the C&O was the sole canal right-of-way from the great canal era that had not suffered disruption. Once the towpath is restored along Big Slackwater, which will take about 18 months to complete, the C&O will regain its rightful place as the last unbroken canal era canal way. (For a summary of the Big Slackwater projects, see article).

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