Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
The Making of a Park
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The decision in 1956 to push for a Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park with an associated over-mountain parkway west of Hancock was soon translated into legal form. Sen. J. Glenn Beall and Rep. DeWitt S. Hyde of Maryland introduced identical bills, drafted by the National Park Service legislative office, that July. It was too late for action on them during that Congress, so the legislators reintroduced the bills at the beginning of the 85th Congress in January 1957.

Beall's S. 77 and Hyde's H.R. 1145 called for the park to encompass existing NPS land of up to 4,800 acres from the planned George Washington Memorial Parkway terminus above Great Falls to a point determined by the secretary of the interior in or near Cumberland, plus additional land bringing the park to as much as 15,000 acres, acquired by the secretary "in such manner as he may consider to be in the public interest." The secretary would be permitted to exchange land at Cumberland excluded from the park for desired land elsewhere. The parkway, connecting Maryland Route 51 near Paw Paw with Long Ridge Road near Woodmont via Town Hill Ridge, would be part of the park but was exempted from the 15,000-acre limitation. Its right-of-way, not to exceed an average of one hundred acres per mile, could be acquired only by donation. Boundaries were left to administrative discretion; the secretary was required only to file a map showing the park area at the National Archives within five years.

NPS Director Conrad L. Wirth sent Hyde a letter intended for public circulation to ease local concerns about the proposal. The legislation, it noted, expressly reaffirmed the 1953 law insuring rights of access across the canal to the Potomac for Maryland communities and industries. The park would not affect Maryland's jurisdiction over the river and its islands. Although hunting would be prohibited within the park, the Park Service would permit hunters to cross the park to get to the river, and fishing would continue in the canal and river. Wirth also took pains to distinguish the scenic over-mountain parkway authorized in the bills from the defunct canal parkway proposal. [1]

The Public Lands subcommittee of the Senate's Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs held a hearing on S. 77 on June 12. Testifying in favor of the bill, Wirth promised to work out the park boundary in cooperation with Maryland officials, leaving areas essential for hunting in state control. Devereux Butcher of the National Parks Association appeared in support, although he regretted the exclusion of the canal below Great Falls from the park. Anthony Wayne Smith testified for the bill on behalf of the C & O Canal Association, formed in 1956 as an expansion of the previous C & O Canal Committee. He too had some reservations, particularly about the suggestion that the Cumberland end of the canal might be relinquished. Supporting testimony or statements were also received from the National Wildlife Federation, the Wildlife Management Institute, The Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society of the District of Columbia, the Citizens Committee on Natural Resources, the Izaak Walton League, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown, and the Cumberland Chamber of Commerce. [2]

Not everyone wanted the park, however. Ernest A. Vaughn, director of the Maryland Game and Inland Fish Commission, and Joseph F. Kaylor, director of Maryland's Department of Forests and Parks, were no happier about the current plan than they had been about the canal parkway. Vaughn testified that the park would restrict public access to the Potomac and close several thousand acres to hunting. Kaylor reported his five-member Commission on Forests and Parks firmly opposed to the idea of a federal "barrier" along the river.

The Maryland Board of Natural Resources, on which both served, submitted a negative statement. "It should be apparent that exclusive dedication of this long shoreline to public recreation is as extremely lopsided as would be its exclusive dedication to industry," it declared. "No one wants another Pittsburgh, but neither can western Maryland afford the extravagance of a 190-mile public park." It called the prohibition of hunting "the kind of thing too many Americans have had to accept from federal bureaucracies in the interests of 'everyone.'" In lieu of the park, it wanted segments of the canal property transferred to Maryland for the extension of state parks, hunting grounds, and industry. [3]

Opposition was also heard from organizations interested in public power development on the Potomac. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Virginia Association of Electric Cooperatives, and the Choptank Electric Cooperative hoped for revival of the Riverbend Dam project (page 50) and saw the park as interfering with that objective. Charles A. Robinson, Jr., testified for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association: "The enactment of S. 77 at this time would very likely preclude multiple-purpose development of the river in the Washington area. It would constitute the sacrifice of a substantial portion of the functional benefits of multiple purpose development such as water supply, pollution abatement, and electric power, in exchange for a nonfunctional aesthetic benefit not necessarily related to any plan of integrated resource utilization." [4]

Following the hearing, the Corps of Engineers informed the Senate committee that it would have no objection to the bill if a proviso like that in the Capper-Cramton Act were added expressly allowing for future dam and other river development (page 8). Wirth was displeased. "Preservation of the Canal property against all encroachments—including water impoundment projects along the main stem of the Potomac River—is an integral part of the proposal to give the area National Historical Park status," he argued. [5] But the committee sided with the Corps, amending the bill to provide "that designation of lands for Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park purposes shall not debar or limit, or abridge its use for such works as Congress may in the future authorize for improvement and extension of navigation, or for flood control or irrigation or drainage, or for the development of hydro-electric power or other purposes."

The committee's report clarified its intent: "S. 77 provides continued authority in the Secretary of the Interior to grant easements through, over, or under the park lands. The right of Congress to authorize in the future use of the lands for other purposes is expressly restated. . . . The two provisions make clear that it is not intended by S. 77 to freeze the long strip of canal land occupying much of Maryland's Potomac River bank, against other developments." [6]

The Senate passed the amended bill on August 29. But the Maryland Board of Natural Resources remained averse, officially reaffirming its opposition in October. And the responsible House subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Gracie Pfost of Idaho, a public power advocate, showed no sign of acting. In a May 1958 editorial, the Washington Post accused Pfost of a "blocking operation" by failing even to schedule hearings. Urging House action, the Post approvingly noted the Senate's amendment allowing for dams if necessary: "Washington's ever-increasing demands for water make these precautions essential." [7]

The House Public Lands subcommittee finally took up the Senate and House bills in an extended hearing beginning June 30, 1958. Representative Hyde began by characterizing the proposed park as "the poor man's national park" because it would "probably be the only extensive national park in the United States that several million people can reach without planning a long trip and with little or no expense." After urging supporting witnesses to be brief in view of the lateness of the session, he expressed confidence that the committee would "agree with the members of the other body and unanimously approve this bill." The acerbic Rep. Wayne N. Aspinall of Colorado, then presiding, took exception. "As a rule in this committee we do not accept unanimously what the other body does," he retorted. "We reserve to ourselves the right to make our own determination, and my colleague well knows that." [8] Indeed, Hyde's confidence proved ill-founded.

Dams were again a dominant issue. The Senate Public Works Committee had recently requested a restudy of the Potomac basin by the Corps of Engineers, and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin had published a report by Abel Wohlman, a consulting engineer, that recommended a series of dams to supplement Washington's water supply, mitigate pollution by flushing action, and control flooding. Representative Pfost asked Hyde whether the committee should not wait for the Corps study before approving park legislation. Having indicated his willingness to accept the Senate amendment, Hyde contended that "the question of a dam and the problems with relation thereto will be exactly the same with or without the establishment of this area as a national park." Pfost thought otherwise. "I believe this committee has been reluctant to infringe upon national park areas with storage dams built which will flood out an area after it has been acquired for park purposes, and I think it is one of the key points in this piece of legislation," she responded. "If the bill is passed, I think we must make it unmistakably clear that there would be no withholding of river development as future demands require it simply because this committee saw fit to establish a park." [9]

In his testimony, Director Wirth sought to reassure both the state park and game interests and the river development proponents. The Park Service was willing to guarantee in the legislation the right of hunters to cross the canal and the right to place duck blinds adjacent to park property. It would not develop visitor use facilities interfering with hunting and wildlife propagation areas. It would acquire only those lands essential for preservation and public enjoyment of the canal and its immediate environs and for access to the river where it was within a quarter-mile of the canal. Wirth was now willing to accept the Senate amendment: "I think I would just as soon have it in if it satisfied the people in their thinking because Congress has all those authorities anyway." Rather than blocking future dam construction, he suggested, land acquisition for the park would mean that less land would have to be purchased later for reservoirs. [10]

While Hyde, Wirth, and most other park supporters were willing to live with the Senate amendment, the National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society, and the C & O Canal Association objected to it. Their refusal to compromise reinforced the doubts of the development advocates. James L. Grahl of the American Public Power Association cited the recent defeat of the proposed Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument following a national campaign by conservationists. "The Senate amendment would have legal effect, but we are fearful that the opponents of multipurpose river development would use the existence of a Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park as a major weapon against vitally needed dams," he testified. "In fact, it might well be conjectured that one of the principal reasons for the introduction of this bill . . . is to block the construction of storage reservoirs on the Potomac River at any time in the future." [11]

Clay L. Cochran of the AFL-CIO was equally perceptive: "Various conservation, recreation, and sporting groups unite readily to oppose the invasion or abolition of national park areas once established and this is as it should be. The inclusion of language indicating that creation of a national park would not foreclose future development is unlikely to be effective. We recall very clearly that the proclamation creating Dinosaur National Monument provided for future water-resource development; yet when the upper Colorado storage-project bill was under consideration, recreation, sporting and conservation groups opposed authorization of Echo Park Dam as though no such provision existed. The very fact that we are in agreement with the general principle that national parks should be inviolate compels us to take a strong position against passage of any bill which might hamper the full development of the Potomac." [12]

The hearing continued sporadically through August 18. Pfost's subcommittee then referred the bill to the full Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, which met on August 20 to act on it but adjourned for lack of a quorum. Representative Hyde saw this denouement as deliberate. So did the Washington Post. "Never was a bill strangled with more finesse," the Post editorialized. "The public power groups which opposed it must be gloating." [13]

The battle was rejoined at the beginning of the 86th Congress in 1959. Sen. J. Glenn Beall reintroduced the version of his bill that had passed the Senate in 1957, again numbered S. 77. In the House, Rep. John P. Saylor of Pennsylvania, a strong park supporter on the Public Lands subcommittee, introduced H.R. 953, identical to the unamended Senate and House bills of the preceding Congress. Rep. John R. Foley of Maryland, Hyde's successor, introduced H.R. 2331, identical to Beall's S. 77. Foley and Rep. Richard E. Lankford of Maryland then introduced two other bills, H.R. 5194 and H.R. 5344, further modified to appease the river development forces. Under them, the secretary of the interior would be required to consult at least annually with the secretary of the army and the commissioners of the District of Columbia and spend no money for park development unless reasonable benefits could be realized before affected lands were taken for other purposes. The secretary of the army would be required to submit to Congress a report with recommendations for the Potomac basin within three years; until six months after the report was submitted, lands as far as Brunswick could not be improved for park purposes at all. [14]

The House now took the lead, holding hearings in March and April. In letters to the committee, the Army and the D.C. commissioners favored the latter bills while Interior favored the former ones. Under Secretary of the Interior Elmer F. Bennett wrote that H.R. 5194 would diminish the secretary's existing authority to improve the canal below Brunswick and severely hinder development of the entire park. The objective of not spending unduly in areas subject to possible inundation, he argued, could be achieved within existing budgetary and appropriations procedures. [15]

Witnesses at the hearing divided along similar lines, with most park proponents strongly objecting to H.R. 5194 and its twin. Conrad Wirth stated his preference for no bill rather than one forbidding improvements below Brunswick. Spencer M. Smith, Jr., and Orville W. Crowder of the Citizens Committee on Natural Resources, Stewart Brandborg of the National Wildlife Federation, Sigurd F. Olson of the National Parks Association, and William C. Grayson of the D.C. Audubon Society also spoke against what some characterized as water and power bills rather than park bills. Grayson, who like most of the conservationists favored Saylor's H.R. 953, urged its amendment to specify the preservation of natural as well as historic and scenic features because his organization had "not always found the National Park Service sensitive to the importance of preserving natural values." Ironically, he also favored removing all trees from the canal prism to restore and rewater the entire canal. [16]

As executive officer of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Maj. U. S. Grant III had urged preservation of the canal as early as 1926 (page 7). More recently Grant, an Army engineer retired as a major general, had publicly opposed the Echo Park Dam. Now president of the American Planning and Civic Association, Grant appeared in support of H.R. 953. The Riverbend Dam, he argued, was unnecessary and would be cost-effective only with a hydroelectric power component. He favored an unsullied park "to preserve this marvelous area of scenic beauty and historic interest for future generations to enjoy and give them the opportunity to find in this part, that relief from the pressures and urgencies of city life which our harried population so much needs. . . . No other nation's capital has such an opportunity to hold such a scenic and educational area in its immediate vicinity." [17]

On the other side, the Corps of Engineers, while supporting the bills that went the furthest to accommodate it, was still uncomfortable with any park authorization. Rep. Albert C. Ullman of Oregon, a Corps ally, drew out the Corps' witness, Col. George B. Sumner, on the subject:

Ullman: "And you feel, if the Secretary of the Interior got ahold of this canal with the label of a national historical park, at some future date if you wanted to build this [Riverbend] dam, you might run into a little opposition...."

Sumner: "Let me say, I think there would be a lot of people who would think we were being very, very mean to suggest flooding out a national historical park."

Ullman: "Almost un-American to flood out a historical park of this type, would it not be?"

Sumner: "I think it would be an unfortunate thing to have to go through that."

Ullman: "You could foresee, in other words, a real fight in order to get such authorization?"

Sumner: "Let me not say with whom I think the fight would be; let me say I think there would be a fight. [Laughter.]" [18]

During the first week of the hearing, representatives of the Park Service, the Corps, and the Bureau of the Budget met to work out a compromise. The Budget Bureau sent the House committee the result of their efforts, a suggested amendment to Foley's H.R. 2331: "Expenditures for park installations and improvements shall be made only after determination by the Secretary of the Interior that they are reasonably justified by the benefits expected to accrue therefrom prior to the time when the lands proposed to be developed would be likely to be needed to carry out, if authorized, the plans and recommendations to be filed by the Secretary of the Army with the Congress. . . ." [19]

Ultimately, however, the committee amended H.R. 2331 by deleting the language from the 1957 Senate amendment and substituting a broader provision offered by John Saylor as Section 4: "Any portion of the lands and interests in lands comprising the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park shall be made available upon Federal statutory authorization for public nonpark uses when such uses shall have been found, in consideration of the public interest, to have a greater public necessity than the uses authorized by this Act." [20]

The committee included the Budget Bureau language in its report on the bill, along with a letter from Under Secretary Bennett promising compliance with it and endorsing the amended H.R. 2331. The report stated the committee's expectation that Interior would consult periodically with the Corps and the D.C. government "so as to permit proper limitations to be placed upon development expenditures within areas of possible conflict." It went out of its way to reassure those still worried that the park would thwart river development: "The committee contemplates that the enactment of H.R. 2331, as amended, and the subsequent actions of the Secretary of the Interior in acquiring lands and filing the final map of the park, will not in any way prejudice the subsequent consideration, in due course, of any proposed nonpark uses of the park land, as the interests of the public may dictate. . . . The principles of multiple resource use and adjustments in use are firmly incorporated in the laws and tradition of the country and are in accord with all sound thinking." [21]

The committee reported the bill to the full House in July, but any victory celebration would have been premature. Rep. Michael J. Kirwan of Ohio, chairman of the House subcommittee on Interior appropriations, felt that there was already enough federal parkland around Washington. In January 1960, at a hearing on the NPS budget containing $200,000 for C & O Canal projects, Kirwan warned Wirth of his opposition to the park bill. When the bill finally reached the House floor on May 19, Kirwan and Clarence J. Brown of Ohio attacked it. Brown, citing the cost of land acquisition and especially the parkway, called it "one of the most wasteful and unneeded proposals" he had seen. Kirwan sided with the dam proponents. "We should not be authorizing the purchase of another 10,000 acres of parkland in this area at the same time we are appropriating funds to survey the need for these reservoirs," he argued. "The Corps of Engineers is spending $1.5 million to make this study, and yet this bill would give the go-ahead to buy and develop 10,000 additional acres of parks that will stand in the way of necessary development of the reservoirs for water storage." Only Foley spoke in favor of the bill. The House rejected it by a vote of 134 to 227. [22]

The next day Senator Beall's office began an effort to salvage the legislation by deleting all cost features from the Senate bill. Wirth told Beall that elimination of the parkway would not be critical, but loss of land acquisition authority for the park proper would render park status meaningless. With Interior's reluctant support, the Senate Interior committee amended S. 77 to permit land acquisition by donation only, to delete the parkway and allow only park-type access roads, and to adopt Section 4 of the amended House bill in lieu of the earlier language accommodating river development. "Senate sponsors of the proposal believe that the Senate measure, with the authorizations for enlargement and parkway construction deleted, will be approved by the House if passed by the Senate," the Senate committee stated in its report. [23]

The Senate passed the amended bill without debate on June 23, and it was referred to the House Interior committee. It got no further. Resentful of what he thought was the priority given projects around Washington, Rep. Walter E. Rogers of Texas twice blocked moves to take up the bill, preventing it from being considered and reported to the full House. It died with the expiration of the 86th Congress. [24]

On January 18, 1961, two days before he left office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the executive authority granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act to proclaim the C & O Canal lands between Seneca and Cumberland a national monument. Recommended to Eisenhower by Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton, the proclamation gave this portion of the canal status as a unit of the national park system but had little practical effect. It authorized no expansion or development and carried with it no funding. It also contained a provision that nothing in it was "intended to prejudice the use of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Monument for such works as the Congress may hereafter authorize for municipal and domestic water supply, navigation, flood control, drainage, recreation, or other beneficial purposes." [25]

After their second defeat in Congress, most park supporters welcomed what they considered a modest gain. Their happiness was short-lived. Concerned members of Congress, notably Wayne Aspinall, now chairman of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, took offense at the executive action, judging it an assault upon their prerogative to establish national park areas. [26] Aspinall, who had not been opposed to the park bill, did not object to the substance of the proclamation, which was largely symbolic. Had he and his committee been consulted on it beforehand, he might have accepted it. But he had not been, and the breach of courtesy poisoned his attitude toward the national monument and succeeding park bills for years thereafter. [27]

The national monument proclamation and the way it was sprung at the end of a lame duck administration left the dam proponents even more distrustful of the Park Service, cited in the press as having initiated the proclamation to block the Riverbend Dam. (The quoted disclaimer had been inserted by the Budget Bureau at the insistence of the D.C. government and the Department of the Army.) The parallel with Dinosaur National Monument, also created by executive order under the Antiquities Act, and the defeated Echo Park Dam was apparent. The hostile reaction from both park opponents and park sympathizers jealous of congressional prerogatives led the new administration to distance itself from the action. President John F. Kennedy's interior secretary, Stewart L. Udall, said it had "created some very serious problems." Although the Park Service had prepared and supported the proclamation, Wirth told the Senate Public Lands subcommittee that its issuance had been "decided by higher authority" and denied that the Service had recommended it. [28]

At the beginning of the 87th Congress, two weeks before the monument proclamation, Senator Beall again introduced as S. 77 the stripped-down park bill approved by the Senate in the previous Congress. A month after the proclamation, Rep. Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., of Maryland, John Foley's successor, introduced H.R. 4684. Similar in most respects, it provided for incorporating the national monument in the national historical park and restored language allowing for land purchases as well as donations to bring the park up to 15,000 acres.

With Aspinall averse to House action, the Senate Interior committee and its Public Lands subcommittee resumed the lead, holding a hearing on S. 77 on April 12. Secretary Udall sent a letter recommending its amendment along the lines of Mathias's bill. The D.C. commissioners made clear that dams would be required on the Potomac to augment the metropolitan water supply but were satisfied with the assurance provided in Section 4 (page 88). "Reservoir storage is considered essential for development of a dependable and adequate water supply for the increasing needs of the Washington area and such reservoirs as are ultimately found indispensable may occupy part of the lands encompassed in the proposed park," Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Stahr, Jr., wrote. He preferred that the park bill be deferred pending completion of the Corps' water resources development study, but he withheld objection to it in view of Section 4. [29]

Testifying for his bill, Beall expressed pleasure with Eisenhower's proclamation and Udall's support for the park. He was agreeable to amending the bill to conform to H.R. 4684. He recognized that a dam or dams might have to inundate part of the park and agreed that the record should be clear on that point.

The public power interests were not persuaded. Alex Radin, general manager of the American Public Power Association, and Charles Robinson of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association urged delay until the Corps study was complete or amendment of the bill to provide more explicitly for river development and preclude park improvements below Brunswick in the interim. Robinson argued that the Riverbend reservoir would provide much greater recreational opportunity than the park without a reservoir. Both cited the successful opposition to the Echo Park Dam as cause for stronger language than Section 4. [30]

In reporting out the bill, the Senate committee amended it to match the House version and added a $1.5 million authorization for land acquisition. (The Park Service had claimed this sum was sufficient for the 10,200 acres required to reach the 15,000-acre ceiling, even though it calculated to less than $150 per acre.) The committee report sought once again to satisfy the dam and public power advocates by documenting the intent behind Section 4, renumbered Section 3: "Section 3 is intended to assure that the establishment of the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park [sic] will not bar or create a prejudice against any essential project proposed to Congress, including Great Bend [sic] or any other recommended by the Corps of U.S. Army Engineers in its pending report. It is the further understanding that the National Park Service will not, pending approval of a plan for the Potomac to meet the needs of the area, construct facilities within any portion of the park prospectively necessary for other uses which will not, in the period prior to other use, provide benefits at least equal to the cost." [31]

The amended bill again passed the Senate without debate on August 2, only to languish in the House under Wayne Aspinall's custody. Representative Mathias unsuccessfully prodded the Interior committee's chairman for action in April 1962. That July the New York Times called for an end to delay, suggesting that the proposed park would become "the Central Park for the Eastern seaboard's coming megalopolis." As the 87th Congress neared adjournment in September 1962, the House National Parks subcommittee (formed from the previous Public Lands subcommittee) finally held a brief hearing on it and recommended it to the full Interior committee. [32] It went no further. The chairman had not forgiven.

Beall and Mathias introduced in the next Congress bills like that last passed by the Senate, but Aspinall's attitude discouraged any action on them in either house. After Beall's defeat for reelection in 1964, Mathias continued to sponsor park bills through the 90th Congress (1967-68) without success. But he helped keep hope for the park alive, and other circumstances ultimately shifted the balance in its favor. Foremost among them was the fate of the Potomac river development plan.

The Corps of Engineers issued a summary of its long-awaited Potomac Basin restudy in May 1962. It proposed 16 dams on the Potomac and its tributaries. The Riverbend Dam had been lowered and moved back to Seneca, making it less efficient but presumably less controversial. It would be the only dam affecting the park, flooding about six miles of the canal. [33]

The opposition was not mollified. Justice William O. Douglas attacked the Corps summary at a National Parks Association conference, calling it "an insult to the layman's intelligence" because it insufficiently justified the Seneca Dam. The Corps' full Potomac River Basin Report, released in April 1963, came under heavy fire at a public hearing that September in Washington's Departmental Auditorium. Anthony Wayne Smith, now president of the National Parks Association, argued that clean water could be provided at less cost by water treatment than by large reservoirs, and that relatively small earthen dams at the headwaters would suffice for flood control. Representative Mathias spoke out against a large dam at Seneca or anywhere else below Harpers Ferry. Nor were the public power interests pleased: the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association still wanted the Riverbend Dam for its power generating potential. [34]

Secretary Udall sympathized with the dam opponents. After meeting with them, he advised President Lyndon B. Johnson against endorsing the controversial Corps plan and recommended a more broadly based Potomac Basin study under his auspices. Johnson readily agreed, asking Udall to prepare a program to clean up the river, protect its natural beauty by scenic easements and other measures, provide recreational facilities, and complete the George Washington Memorial Parkway on both banks. The President announced the new study in his 1965 State of the Union Address and expounded on it in a special message to Congress on natural beauty that February. "The river rich in history and memory which flows by our Nation's Capital should serve as a model of scenic and recreational values for the entire country," he stated. [35]

Udall formed a Federal Interdepartmental Task Force on the Potomac to work with an advisory committee representing the Potomac Basin states. In January 1966 he endorsed and sent Johnson its Potomac Interim Report to the President. The report opposed building the Seneca Dam "at this time" but recommended that the area it would flood be left undeveloped "for any future needed public use." It favored three new dams on the Town Creek, Sideling Hill, and Little Cacapon tributaries in addition to the previously authorized Bloomington Dam beyond Cumberland. And it recommended a Potomac Valley Historical Park, encompassing the C & O Canal National Monument and other lands in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, to achieve a "permanent green sheath" for the Potomac. [36]

More than two years later, following extensive efforts by NPS and other government planners, Udall came forth with a revised plan for the Potomac. The first part of it called for a Potomac National River of 67,000 acres from Washington to Cumberland, again incorporating the national monument. Both sides of the river and its islands would be purchased in fee, scenic easements would be acquired inland, and local governments would be encouraged to adopt strict master plans and zoning ordinances to control adjacent land use. Unless specifically authorized by Congress, no new dams would be allowed within the national river's boundaries. [37]

Udall's transmittal of a draft Potomac National River bill to Congress on March 8, 1968, coincided with another presidential message endorsing the proposal. That October Udall publicized the balance of his plan in The Nation's River: The Department of the Interior Official Report on the Potomac. The report called for dams at Sixes Bridge on the Monocacy River, Verona, and North Mountain in addition to those recommended in the 1966 interim report. [38]

The Potomac National River and associated proposals generated much controversy. Some conservationists felt betrayed by Udall on the dams. Farm organizations and real estate interests that had joined with the conservation groups against the Corps' dams also disliked the amount of land acquisition and control called for. Opposition was especially strong in West Virginia. No member of Congress from there or Virginia joined in sponsoring the Potomac National River legislation. Douglas accused Udall of "delusions of grandeur" for abandoning the canal park in favor of the larger scheme, widely viewed as unworkable. While not denouncing the national river, the National Parks Association, the Citizens Committee on Natural Resources, and the C & O Canal Association continued to favor separate authorization of the C & O Canal National Historical Park. [39]

In fact, the national river proposal may have helped the cause of the park by making it appear innocuous by comparison. To some previous opponents in Maryland, the park now appeared a desirable alternative. Declining to support the national river, Mathias worked skillfully to assure western Marylanders that their interests would be protected and furthered by his park legislation, which now provided for an advisory commission representing the affected state and local jurisdictions. Simultaneously, efforts by the Park Service's national monument staff to improve public relations were achieving considerable success (as will be discussed later). [40]

Mathias, who became a U.S. senator with the 91st Congress in 1969, and Representatives John Saylor, Samuel S. Stratton of New York, and Rogers C. B. Morton, Gilbert M. Gude, and J. Glenn Beall, Jr., of Maryland introduced park bills in the first session of that Congress. Udall, whose commitment to the Potomac National River had led him to oppose the last park bills, was out of office. Walter J. Hickel, President Richard M. Nixon's interior secretary, did not immediately endorse either the park or the national river (for which bills were also introduced). Hickel's position was critical, for the Senate Interior committee would not waste its time on the park bill without prior action by its House counterpart, whose chairman would act—if at all—only upon learning where the new administration stood.

In the spring of 1970 it was rumored that Hickel was about to endorse the national river. Anthony Smith urged his support for the park instead. "If the C & O Canal project continues to be involved in the Potomac National River project, it will never get anywhere, because the Potomac National River project, as proposed by Secretary Udall will never get anywhere," he wrote Hickel. (Smith's argument for the park would not have helped its cause in western Maryland: seeking to tie it to the administration's urban initiative, he described it as "primarily for the benefit of the city people of the Washington Metropolitan area.") Mathias, Gude, and other park proponents hastily arranged a meeting in Hickel's office, explained to him why the national river was then impolitic, and advised him to take an evolutionary approach starting with the park. The secretary was persuaded. On May 27 he communicated his support for the C & O Canal National Historical Park to Wayne Aspinall. [41]

Gude and Saylor called on the chairman. His mood had mellowed, a circumstance colleagues attributed to the old widower's recent remarriage. He agreed that the national river was infeasible and thought the park a reasonable alternative. He promised to hold hearings. [42]

After the change of administrations in January 1969, NPS Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., (Wirth's successor in 1964) had sought to position his bureau to move in whatever direction Hickel chose. That April he had obtained a resolution from the secretary's Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments supporting establishment of the national historical park "at this time" as a first step toward the national river. John M. Kauffmann, a Park Service planner who had worked on the national river project, was asked to redo the park plan in line with this thinking. Kauffmann's plan for land acquisition and development was largely complete that October.

The park would now include the entire canal from Georgetown to Cumberland (as was called for in the current bills and Mathias's bill in the preceding Congress). Its boundary, drawn on a map, encompassed 20,239 acres, of which 12,156 acres were privately owned. No additional land was to be acquired from Rock Creek to just above Great Falls and from North Branch to Cumberland; in between, the park would take in everything between the canal and river and much inland acreage. The land cost was estimated at $19,472,605 if Maryland proceeded with plans to acquire 2,000 acres within the boundary; otherwise $909,832 more would be needed. Development was expected to cost $47 million. "Essentially, the boundary map, the development plan, and the land and development estimates reflect a decision to split the Potomac National River plan lengthwise," one reviewer commented. [43]

The House hearing ran through two days in August 1970, late in the 91st Congress. In his opening remarks Aspinall mentioned his opposition to Eisenhower's national monument proclamation ("it was not done in accordance with the wishes of Congress") but blamed past inaction on park bills on "a fight between the conservationists, conservation for land, conservation for recreation, conservation for water." He understood that those differences had now been resolved. [44]

John Saylor's bill, H.R. 658, was the primary focus of attention. Among other provisions, it provided for the secretary of the interior to undertake a comprehensive title search and cadastral survey to fix the present federal boundary and distribute the results to all adjoining landowners and governmental bodies. (Numerous disputes had arisen over private land claims.) Private owners of land between the park and the river would be guaranteed access to their land for agricultural purposes, and hunters would be allowed to cross the park with unloaded weapons at any point. The old language allowing for "public nonpark uses," e.g., dams, upon congressional authorization was repeated. Appropriations of $3 million during each of the first three fiscal years "and such sums as may be necessary thereafter" would be authorized.

The Interior Department proposed a number of amendments. In his letter to Aspinall, Hickel recommended setting the park boundary legislatively by reference to Kauffmann's map. He objected to the title search and survey provision, which he said would encourage land disputes and entail unnecessary costs. He requested deletion of the land access provision, stating Interior's intent to acquire all private land between the canal and the river. He wanted hunters to cross "at locations designated by the Secretary" for control and safety purposes. He recommended deletion of the "public nonpark uses" language as unnecessary. And he asked for much larger land acquisition and development appropriations in line with the NPS estimates. [45]

Senator Mathias testified to the urgency of action in the face of rising land values. "This is the last blow of the trumpet as far as the C. & O. Canal is concerned," he said. "The key to the salvation of the Potomac River is to pass this bill and to establish this park as the vertebrae upon which the State and local and private effort can build so that we can preserve the river." On behalf of a vocal constituency, he stressed the value of sportsmen's clubs in protecting the river and expressed hope that they might be left undisturbed. "In the 10 years I have been in Congress I don't suppose I have had any constituent problem which was more troublesome than the problem of access to the Potomac River across the C. & O. Canal property," he commented. [46]

Testifying for the Park Service, Director George Hartzog justified the plan to acquire all land between the canal and river. Because the park was viewed as the first step toward the Potomac National River, he said, the Service did not want to pay severance costs associated with partial land acquisition now and return later to purchase the rest. The development plan he described was extensive. The entire canal would be restored to varying degrees, and half of it would be rewatered. There would be numerous facilities for boating, camping, picnicking, and other recreational activities, with associated access roads and parking areas. [47]

Conservation group representatives joined in supporting the park but voiced concern about the proposed level of development. Spencer Smith of the Citizens Committee on Natural Resources urged that priority be given to canal restoration over parking and supplementary services. Anthony Smith of the National Parks and Conservation Association objected to plans for "sizable parking lots" serving "large motorboat areas" on the river: "It would be a bitter irony if as a result of a successful effort to protect the Canal lands as a Park, the public were to find its good refuge destroyed by the noise-makers, pursuant to plans developed by the very agency of the Government entrusted with protection." Colin Ritter, president of the C & O Canal Association, and Grant Conway, representing the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, likewise minimized the need for development. Shirley A. Briggs of the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Rachel Carson Trust criticized the damage wrought by the Park Service with herbicides and with heavy equipment used for towpath repairs at Widewater. She urged that the legislation give natural values equal weight with historic and recreational values to prevent such abuses in the future. [48]

Maryland's Department of Forests and Parks now favored the park, with some reservations. Its director, Spencer P. Ellis, wanted to be sure that the park boundary would not take in the Potomac, as the Park Service map seemed to allow. Maryland planned to acquire riverfront lands in connection with the Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, and McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County and wanted the ability to lease canal lands within each project. The state also wanted permission to lease other portions of the national historical park between the canal and river so hunting could continue there.

The last request upset Aspinall. "It doesn't matter whether it is under lease to the State," he retorted. "I am not about to support legislation which permits hunting in any national park. . . . This is one thing that has caused a lot of trouble here and I thought this issue had been resolved." Ellis was not in a position to press the matter and backed down. Rep. Roy A. Taylor of North Carolina, the subcommittee chairman, helped him save face by agreeing that the park's south boundary should be the mean low water mark on the north bank of the Potomac. [49]

The most noteworthy aspect of the 1970 park hearings was the virtual disappearance of opposition. Effective public relations work by Mathias, NPS staff, and others had done much to allay fears and win friends in western Maryland and Annapolis. The dam lobby was nowhere to be seen. The demise of the Seneca Dam proposal, moribund since 1963, was confirmed when the Army's chief of engineers declined to endorse it in 1969. [50] So remote had prospects of any new dam along the length of the park become that the committee readily accepted Hickel's recommendation to delete the "public nonpark uses" provision long demanded by river development proponents.

On October 1 the committee recommended to the full House a "clean bill" (H.R. 19342) combining elements of H.R. 658, certain of Hickel's recommendations, and other amendments. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Development Act, as it was titled, would establish the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park "to preserve and interpret the historic and scenic features of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and to develop the potential of the canal for public recreation, including such restoration as may be needed." The park boundaries were to be "as generally depicted" on Kauffmann's map; the exact boundaries were to be established and announced to property owners on the inland side of the canal within 18 months of enactment. State-owned lands would be included only if donated or managed under a cooperative agreement making them subject to national park policies. Lands that Maryland planned to purchase and on which cooperative agreements were negotiated could not be acquired before two years, giving the state first rights. The secretary of the interior was also to consider state and local development and use plans affecting the park vicinity and act compatibly with them "wherever practicable."

Valid existing rights and permits were not to be adversely affected by the act. The 1953 law directing the secretary to grant utility easements across the canal was not expressly reaffirmed, as it had been in earlier bills; rather, the secretary was given discretion to permit other uses and crossings of the park "if such uses and crossings are not in conflict with the purposes of the park and are in accord with any requirements found necessary to preserve park values." Hunters were authorized to cross with unloaded weapons at locations designated by the secretary, as Interior had requested.

The bill also established a 19-member Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission, its members to be appointed by the secretary for five-year terms. Two members would be appointed from recommendations from the government of each affected Maryland county (Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany); two would be appointed from recommendations from the chief executive of the District of Columbia and each adjoining state (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia); and three would be appointed at the secretary's initiative. The secretary or his designee was to meet and consult with the commission at least annually "on general policies and specific matters related to the administration and development of the park." Earlier language requiring the secretary to consult before establishing park regulations was stricken, making clear that the commission was to play a purely advisory rather than administrative role. The commission would expire after ten years.

The bill authorized $20.4 million for land acquisition, as Interior requested, but only $17 million of the $47 million sought for development. With the lower figure, derived from the Park Service development plan for the first three years, the committee responded to the conservationists' concerns about overdevelopment and guaranteed that the plan would undergo further scrutiny if and when the agency returned for more money. [51]

The House passed the bill without amendment on October 5—the first time a C & O park bill cleared that body. (Only Rep. H. R. Gross of Iowa, a crusader against most new federal spending, stood in opposition.) The bill then went to the Senate, whose Interior committee held a pro forma hearing on December 15 and reported it favorably on December 21. In response to some potentially troublesome questions from Sen. Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico, the committee report further emphasized that the park would stop at the river's edge: "Nothing in this bill is intended or shall be construed to extend the jurisdiction of the Secretary over the Potomac River itself. . . . " It also affirmed the applicability of the 1953 easements law to the national historical park. [52]

Fortunately for the park proponents, those seeking these assurances did not insist on amending the bill with them. Senate passage of an amended bill would have required its return to the House for concurrence. Further House action so close to adjournment was unlikely. By keeping the bill unaltered, it was ready for presidential signature after the Senate approved it without dissent on December 22. President Nixon signed it into law on January 8, 1971. [53]

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Monument and the canal property from Seneca down to Rock Creek, comprising some 5,250 acres, were now the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The tasks of acquiring another 15,000 acres and developing the park to best preserve its values and serve the public lay ahead.

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Last Updated: 11-Oct-2004