C&O Canal Association is an all-volunteer, independent organization, while C&O Canal Trust is an official partner of the park with a paid staff. These distinctions give the two organizations different strengths, even though both groups support the canal. Both are non-profit organizations.
Because the Association is independent, it can take public positions in opposition to the National Park Service, when necessary. The most prominent example is the association’s opposition to construction of a Georgetown University boathouse within park boundaries.
The Canal Trust’s partnership status and professional staff enable it to work closely with the park on key projects, such as the Canal Quarters program. The Trust has also demonstrated considerable fund raising prowess.