Guests of the were in for a surprise Saturday, when it was announced that the towpath at may finally be fixed.
Three years after a storm washed away parts of the canal towpath at Old Angler's Inn, funding was secured to allow repairs to begin, according to Brian Carlstrom, deputy superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
In 2008, Tropical Storm Hanna left a 125-foot breach in the towpath, exacerbating an already existing crack in the towpath surface. The National Park Service was forced to close the popular park location for safety reasons, and it has remained off-limits for three years.
Last week, the NPS received word that it had been awarded $2.2 million by Congress to repair the breach.
The grant was awarded through the National Park Service Line Item Construction Program, which provides funding for construction, rehabilitation and replacement projects in national parks around the country.
The C&O Canal Trust was instrumental in helping the NPS secure the award by quickly raising money for preliminary studies and damage assessments, Carlstom said. In 2010, Canal Trust donated $100,000 to clean up the damaged area and to "facilitate preliminary repair design work," according to the Canal Trust website.
"That stretch of canal affects almost a million people, at least," said Matthew Logan, Canal Trust president. "We view it as a top priority from an advocacy stand point."
This preliminary work allowed the NPS to be ready to move forward with the project when funding became available. Getting a project through the Line Item Construction Program is not easy, according to Carlstrom, and requires a two-tier assessment that scores a project based on its health and safety implications, resource protection, maintenance needs, visitor services and cost benefit.
"It's a fairly involved process where we're competing with parks nationwide," Carlstrom said of the line-item application. "We had to develop an entire project statement."
Maryland also contributed $1.1 million to the repair project through the state's Transportation Enhancement Program, bringing the total amount secured to $3.3 million. Construction has been slated to start later this fall, though specific dates have not yet been determined.
"[Repairs are] going to be very extensive," Carlstrom said. He estimates the entire process will take at least a year to complete. "They're basically going to be rebuilding the canal wall. It's going to be a pretty complicated engineering solution."