Canal Renovation Is Moving Along

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The new Lock 3 gate of the C&O Canal. Georgetowner photo.

Things are happening along the Georgetown section of Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The two-year project to restore and repair Locks 3 and 4, adjacent to 30th Street NW, has been completed. The 31st Street Bridge over the canal and towpath is being replaced. The new replica canal boat is under construction, and new mules to tow it are about to be sought, bought and trained.

“The big news is that we are definitely planning a launch date for the boat in the late spring of 2020,” Maggie Downing of Georgetown Heritage told about 100 people at a canal update meeting, convened by the Citizens Association of Georgetown on Oct. 22.

A town meeting and workshop to view two alternative designs and to collect and consider public input on the comprehensive Georgetown Canal Plan will be held on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. The session will take place in the Canal Overlook Room on the far west side of Georgetown Park, 3276 M St. NW.

The alternatives are part of an environmental assessment, a required step. “The proposed action alternatives address issues of deferred maintenance and increased preservation of the one-mile section of the C&O Canal,” states Georgetown Heritage, the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service on the project. They will also “include improvements that will enhance education, interpretation and visitor experiences for those who live, work and visit the park in Georgetown.”

The stability of the locks’ walls and waterway has been the first priority of the canal park project, according to Georgetown Heritage. Enhancement of landscape zones and educational opportunities are next.

Seven landscape zones have been identified in the plan: the canal walls, the mile marker, the Rock Creek confluence, the grove, the garden, Fish Market Square and the Aqueduct. “We’re about to use some very jargon-y language, all of which can be translated,” Downing remarked at the CAG meeting. “But in the end, what we can really say is that we are excited and the C&O plan is going to be awesome.”

Creation of the comprehensive plan is a complicated process involving a number of agencies. It is being developed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, ensuring that the park’s natural and cultural resources are carefully considered.

Funding for the plan comes from the Executive Office of the Mayor, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the Georgetown Business Improvement District and private philanthropy. A combination of public and private sources will fund the plan’s implementation.

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