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 C&O Canal Association

National Park Service News Releases

December 10, 2018 – Upcoming fee increases at Great Falls

Catherine Bragaw (C&O Canal, MD), catherine_bragaw@nps.gov, 301 491-6265
Joshua Nadas (Great Falls Park, VA), joshua_nadas@nps.gov, 703-419-6424

POTOMAC, MD –Entrance fees for the Great Falls area will increase effective January 1, 2019. Also beginning January 1, the National Park Service will reinstate a reciprocal agreement allowing visitors who purchase a pass at either Great Falls Park (Va.) or on the Maryland side of the Potomac River at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park to re-enter from the other side while their pass is valid.

“Entrance fees collected are returned directly to the parks and help the National Park Service address deferred maintenance needs to meet the needs of today's visitors,” C&O Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt said. “Both C&O Canal and Great Falls Park, a site within George Washington Memorial Parkway,  use fee money to directly benefit visitors such as offering educational programs, taking care of trails and buildings and being good stewards of the parks’ nature and history.”

The changes effective January 1, 2019, are as follows:

Per Vehicle:
Current: $10/vehicle for 3 days. Valid only at park where fee was paid.
New: $15/vehicle for 7 days. Valid at both parks.

Per Person (hikers/walkers, bicyclists):
Current: $5/person for 3 days. Valid only at park where pass was purchased.
New: $7/person for 7 days. Valid at both parks.

Per Motorcycle:
Current: $10/motorcycle for 3 days. Valid only at park where pass was purchased.
New: $10/motorcycle for 7 days. Valid at both parks.

Park Annual Pass:
Current: $30. Valid at both parks.
New: No change.

While supporting park projects and programs, entrance fees provide visitors full access to services including park and trail maps, visitor center exhibits and information, ranger programs and restrooms. An annual pass is a great value for frequent visitors. There are also options that provide access to national parks across the country; more information at https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm.

During the past two years, entrance fees have supported many projects along the C&O Canal and Great Falls Park including:

These changes bring the parks into full compliance with the National Park Service’s standard pricing. No other increases or new fees are proposed at this time. The last fee increase for these locations was in the summer of 2015.

Despite record-breaking visitation of 1.5 billion visitors over the last five years, the combination of aging infrastructure and increased visitation has put a strain on park roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services, leading to a $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog nationwide.

Entrance fees collected by the NPS in 2016 totaled $199.9 million. The NPS estimates the new fee structure will increase annual revenue by roughly $60 million. The majority of national parks (300) will remain free to enter; 117 NPS sites charge an entrance fee.

The new fee schedules result from public comments received on a fee proposal released in October 2017 and include modest fee increases for all fee-charging parks instead of the higher peak-season fees initially proposed at 17 highly-visited national parks. All of the money received from entrance fees remains with the National Park Service (NPS) and will help address $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance.  

September 27, 2018 – C&O Canal plans to relocate headquarters
and open new visitor center in Williamsport, MD

Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles (NPS), jenny_anzelmo-sarles@nps.gov, 202-619-7177
Angela Berard (State of Maryland), angela.berard@maryland.gov, 410-974-2316
Brittany Higgins (Washington County), bhiggins@washco-md.net, 240-313-2389

HAGERSTOWN, MD – A new headquarters for Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is expected to bring jobs and an economic boost to Williamsport, MD.  Yesterday, the National Park Service (NPS) and Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO), with support from Washington County, reached an agreement to identify and rehabilitate property adjacent to the park to serve as a visitor center and the park’s new headquarters.

“Moving our headquarters to Williamsport creates a sense of community,” Superintendent Kevin Brandt said.  “It makes sense to bring park managers back to the front lines, and our agreement with MEDCO and relationship with Washington County are major steps forward. There is still work to be done, but I know that by working together, the town, county, state and the park, will all benefit from having the C&O Canal headquarters in Williamsport.”

The relocation will bring more than 75 jobs to Williamsport, create efficiencies by consolidating park operations in Washington County to one location and bring new investment and economic opportunities to surrounding communities.

“The C&O Canal is an important part of American and Maryland history, and we are proud to keep the canal headquarters here in our state with a newly rehabilitated and renovated location in Williamsport,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Not only will this project help us preserve this site for future generations; the 75 new jobs it will create are a win for Williamsport.”

Approximately five million people visit C&O Canal National Historical Park each year. In 2017, more than 420,000 of these visitors came to Williamsport, spending nearly $6 million in the local community and supporting more than 800 local jobs.

“The National Park Service, the state of Maryland and Washington County forged a historic partnership to locate the C&O Canal Headquarters where it belongs. The headquarters of our regional pride and national treasure will be located where history has intended it to be most  enjoyed by visitors and staff alike,” Washington County Administrator Rob Slocum said.

Over the past 10 years, NPS and the state of Maryland have invested more than $12 million in rehabilitating the historic features of the C&O Canal in Williamsport. The relocation of the park’s headquarters ensures that this successful partnership will continue for years to come.

“This is tremendously exciting, as the National Park Service will finally have a headquarters adjacent to the C&O Canal, and the agency will save money by consolidating various functions under one roof. Williamsport will attract more visitors, and visitors to the C&O Canal NHP will no longer get lost trying to find its headquarters,” said Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. “This is a true federal, state and local collaboration many, many years in the making, and I am proud to have been a part of the effort throughout its course.”

The more than 75 positions that the new agreement keeps in Washington County amount to an annual payroll of about $5 million. Additionally, the proposed move will capitalize on the recent investments in the canal, which allow visitors to experience all aspects of a working canal—the only such opportunity in North America.

“Bringing the C&O Canal Headquarters to Williamsport is a win-win for the park and the Williamsport community. This agreement is the product of years of discussions between local, state, and federal partners, and I’m pleased we could work together to make this proposal a reality,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, who advocated for the project through his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee and secured language supporting the cooperative management agreement in the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. “I will keep working in the Senate to ensure that the C&O Canal National Historical Park receives the resources it needs to continue serving visitors for generations to come.”

“Moving the park headquarters to Williamsport is good for the park, good for those of us who love the park and good for Washington County. This could not have happened without the work of local leaders and the cooperation between those at the federal, state and local level and that cooperation and diligence should be applauded,” said Congressman John Delaney.

Currently, the C&O Canal headquarters is located in Hagerstown, Md., which is a 20-minute drive from the nearest park location in Williamsport. In 2002, the park offices moved to Hagerstown from the Ferry Hill Plantation visitor center near Sharpsburg, Md. The current headquarters lease, through the General Services Administration, expires in 2022.

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