Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
The Making of a Park
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For much of its tenure under the National Park Service, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was an administrative anomaly. Acquired as a public works project, it lacked status as a unit of the national park system for more than two decades. For a decade thereafter, most but not all of it held such status as a national monument; the rest remained part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and National Capital Parks. The two parts were managed by different superintendents for 17 years; for eight of those years they reported to different regional offices. Even after the park achieved administrative unity under a single superintendent, its elongated nature and varied environment and clientele posed unusual management challenges.

After the Park Service acquired the canal in 1938, the District of Columbia portion (4.7 miles long) fell within the Potomac Palisades Parkway component of National Capital Parks, the segment from the District line to just above Great Falls (about eleven miles) lay within the George Washington Memorial Parkway's jurisdiction, and the remainder, outside any legally authorized park entity, was informally classed as an NCP "reservation." [1] The superintendent of National Capital Parks (C. Marshall Finnan to August 1939, Irving C. Root from January 1941 to July 1950) oversaw the whole with the aid of NCP staff and the United States Park Police, an arm of NCP.

As noted earlier, the Park Service focused its early efforts on restoration of the canal from the inlet lock below Seneca to Rock Creek in Georgetown. Beginning in 1941, NCP staff members made periodic inspection trips along the canal above Seneca. Associate Civil Engineer William G. Hayward traveled there that spring. He found the B & O Railroad dumping trash, cinders, and miscellaneous fill on canal property in the Cumberland area—a practice that continued over the years despite repeated complaints to railroad officials. Because there were insufficient park policemen for the task, Hayward suggested that five old canal company supervisors be hired to patrol the canal and watch for such encroachments, but this was not done. [2]

Amid the general curtailment of park activities during the war years, the Service could devote little attention to the upper canal. NCP did form a C & O Canal Real Estate Board to handle leases and permits. Mary A. McColligan, its chairman, and Frances J. Worthington, a realty specialist, went on inspection trips accompanied by Walter H. Sconyers, a Park Police private then assigned to canal patrol work. The board continued into the 1950s, when William Hayward served on it with the two women.

Park Police officers were the only uniformed Park Service representatives on the upper canal during this period. In April 1951 Sgt. Thomas C. Tingle and Pvt. Samuel H. Hower hiked from Cumberland to Seneca in a patrol designed to attract press coverage and promote the Service's parkway proposal. They reported general support for the parkway except from those who feared "the removal of their summer cottages and other privileges they now enjoy." On a routine inspection that November, Hower discovered "a very foul condition" near the terminus in Cumberland: "A sewer of considerable capacity empties into the canal, runs across the canal and into the river. The odor is terrible." [3] In March 1954 Hower was detailed to assist Justice William O. Douglas's anti-parkway hike, which avoided Cumberland's degradation by beginning at North Branch. Later that year Pvt. Roland A. Fallin was posted at Harpers Ferry and given the upper canal as his beat.

National Capital Parks remained a unitary organization, without subordinate superintendents for its various components, until 1965. It did have personnel assigned primarily to manage particular areas, and in January 1953 Associate Superintendent Harry T. Thompson, then lobbying hard for the parkway, proposed that a capable custodian be appointed for the entire canal. He would be stationed in Williamsport or some other central location, become completely familiar with the canal, supervise all improvements, and serve as the canal's primary contact with the public. NPS Director Conrad L. Wirth endorsed the proposal, but no action was taken on it. [4]

Instead, when Wirth abandoned the canal parkway for the national historical park proposal in 1956, he decided to break the canal administratively at Seneca. The restored portion would remain with NCP. The remainder—the part proposed for national historical park designation—would receive its own superintendent reporting to the NPS regional director in Philadelphia. As noted previously (page 76), this division would allow NCP to retain the canal segment within its traditional service area while removing the national historical park to the nearest regional office charged with overseeing discrete units of the national park system.

The Region Five office in Philadelphia immediately became involved in planning for the park, sending George Thompson to survey the canal above Seneca for recreational development opportunities in the spring of 1956. In May 1957, anticipating early enactment of the recently introduced park legislation, Regional Director Daniel J. Tobin recommended establishment of a park headquarters. He favored Hagerstown for its central location reasonably near the canal, its access via U.S. Route 40, and its accommodations for families. Ben H. Thompson, head of planning activities in the Service's Washington office, recommended setting up a full-time park staff for planning and operations even if the legislation did not clear the current Congress. [5]

Director Wirth followed their recommendations. On August 11, 1957, he appointed Edwin M. ("Mac") Dale superintendent of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Project with headquarters at Hagerstown. Dale's new domain remained under NCP for another year, during which time he reported officially to the NCP superintendent but dealt extensively with Philadelphia. On September 1, 1958, he and his area of responsibility were formally transferred to Region Five. The canal was administratively divided one hundred feet downstream from the first culvert above the Seneca Aqueduct, leaving the sandstone mill and quarry beyond Seneca Creek under NCP. "Visitor use of the Canal to that point is more urban than wilderness type and breaks rather sharply at Seneca," NCP Superintendent Harry Thompson wrote Wirth to explain the line of demarcation. [6] President Dwight D. Eisenhower's January 18, 1961, proclamation of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Monument ratified this division by setting the monument's lower boundary at this point.

Edwin M. Dale
Edwin M. Dale

Mac Dale, a Virginia native, had served as chief ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway and as the first superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Monument. He had two major tasks: to establish a firm Park Service presence along the canal, reclaiming parts of it from private encroachments; and to build public support for the proposed national historical park.

Unfortunately, these tasks were not mutually supportive. Dale made many appearances before civic organizations and other groups to promote the park and ease fears that it would bar Marylanders from the Potomac. But his efforts to crack down on neighboring landowners, squatters, and others using canal property for their own purposes (sometimes unwittingly where the boundary was unclear) generated hostility. He was accused of a dictatorial attitude and of regarding people along the river as the enemy. He did succeed in clearing the towpath of fences and eliminating many other adverse uses. John C. Frye, a longtime canal supporter, later recalled Dale as "the ramrod type" who "accomplished so much with so little—the right person at the right place at the right time." [7]

W. Dean McClanahan
W. Dean McClanahan

Dale's public relations problems hurt him with his superiors, whose priority was getting the park legislation passed. In turn, he became frustrated by their seeming lack of support for his efforts to build and maintain a traditional park regime. After he had worked long and hard to curtail certain privileges of the Potomac Fish and Game Club, for example, Regional Director Ronald F. Lee yielded to an appeal for leniency from the club's president. Dale retired from his job and the Service on December 31, 1965, somewhat embittered by such experiences. [8]

W. Dean McClanahan became the second superintendent of the C & O Canal National Monument on January 30, 1966. McClanahan had been a ranger at several parks in the Southwest, superintendent of Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota, and most recently a forester in the Natural History Division at Park Service headquarters. Four months later, on June 1, the national monument portion of the canal returned to the Service's National Capital Region, as the National Capital Parks organization was retitled in 1962. (The NCP designation was temporarily restored between December 1969 and October 1976, but the regional office and organization remained.)

The canal segment that had stayed under NCP/NCR had continued to be managed from NCP headquarters for a time. In March 1957, trash dumping in Georgetown and other maintenance problems prompted NCP Superintendent Edward J. Kelly to establish the Committee for Improving the Restored Portion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It consisted of George W. Harding, chief of NCP's Horticulture and Maintenance Branch; John B. Thomas, public health consultant; Hugo Habluetzel, a horticulturalist based at Great Falls; Chief Harold F. Stewart of the Park Police; Cornelius W. Heine, a historian with the Public Use Branch; and W. Drew Chick, Jr., NCP's chief naturalist. The committee's purpose was to recommend and arrange for basic improvements in maintenance, operations; and enforcement of park regulations—activities for which a park staff would normally be responsible.

In May 1965, what was then the National Capital Region was reorganized into subordinate superintendencies. NCR's part of the canal came under Superintendent Floyd B. Taylor of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, whose boundary encompassed most of it. The national monument's transfer to NCR a year later was a significant step toward administrative reunification, but the canal would remain divided under two park superintendents for eight more years. [9]

Mac Dale had strengthened Park Service authority along the upper canal but ruffled neighboring sensibilities in the process. Building on what Dale had accomplished, Dean McClanahan took a more conciliatory tack to win friends for the national monument and support for the park legislation.

Soon after his arrival, McClanahan suggested at a Potomac Valley planning meeting in Hagerstown that hunting might be appropriate at certain times and places within the monument. The Washington Post vigorously opposed the idea and condemned its source in an editorial: "Our indignation mounted and then boiled over into incredulity when we noted that the suggestion came, not only from the hunters, but also from W. Dean McClanahan, the new superintendent of the National Monument." NPS Assistant Director Howard W. Baker disowned the suggestion in letters to protesting park supporters, but the exchange surely helped McClanahan in western Maryland. [10]

Dale had begun to develop public use facilities along the canal, including the campground at Antietam Creek, several hiker-biker campgrounds, and the boat ramp and access at Four Locks. McClanahan greatly accelerated the construction of boat ramps, campgrounds, parking areas, and access roads (described more fully in the next chapter). By opening the canal and river to greater public use, this development program went far to dispel old notions of the canal park as a barrier. [11]

McClanahan's public relations skills were especially evident in his dealings with community organizations. Encountering resistance from adults, he adopted the old tactic of working through their children. He conceived the idea of Boy Scout canal hikes, with hikers receiving patches for completing segments of the towpath. This C & O Canal Historic Trail program was inaugurated in May 1967 with four Scout camporees, the largest at the Antietam Creek campground with 750 participants including Rep. Charles McC. Mathias, Jr. Its success prompted the Boy Scouts of America's Baltimore Area Council to publish 184 Miles of Adventure: Hiker's Guide to the C & O Canal in 1970. Park rangers presented programs in Washington County schools and YMCA camps, then led classes and camp groups on canal hikes. For family groups McClanahan inaugurated Saturday evening campfire programs at Antietam Creek; a majority of the 1,800 who attended the 13 programs given during 1967 were local people who came just for the programs. The superintendent and his staff continued with numerous presentations to civic and church groups. McClanahan found garden clubs and other women's organizations especially receptive; women, he judged, were less opposed to the Service's presence and purposes than men. [12]

McClanahan's efforts to improve public access to the canal and river, increase public use along them, and cultivate good community relations did much to raise the standing of the Park Service in western Maryland. Carrie Johnson, an aide to Mathias closely involved with the park legislation, judged those efforts instrumental in overcoming opposition to it. [13]

Upon his assignment to the canal, Mac Dale had set up headquarters in the Earle Building at 74 West Washington Street in Hagerstown. The office moved to 479 North Potomac Street in 1961 and to 120 North Potomac Street in 1965. Under a general Park Service program of clustering geographically related park units, administration of the C & O Canal National Monument was combined with that of Antietam National Battlefield Site (and the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center) on December 17, 1967. Dean McClanahan inherited the superintendency of the Antietam C & O Canal Group, as the new organization was known, and moved his headquarters to the recently built visitor center at Antietam soon afterward. He liked the group arrangement, which enabled him to shift personnel and other resources between areas to meet special needs. [14]

The enactment of the national historical park legislation on January 8, 1971, prompted no immediate organizational change. Although the entire canal was now a single unit of the national park system, the former national monument portion remained under the Antietam-C & O Canal Group, while the lower portion continued under George Washington Memorial Parkway administration. This was the only time in Park Service history when one contiguous park system unit was divided between two superintendents. Floyd Taylor retired as superintendent of the parkway on June 27, 1971, to be succeeded by David A. Ritchie on July 25.

McClanahan's development orientation, having helped the park cause, now got him into difficulty. In 1970 he had installed a boat ramp and parking area above Dam 4 and begun to widen the eroded towpath upstream along Big Slackwater so maintenance and patrol vehicles could traverse it. In July 1971 Jacob Berkson, an adjoining landowner who claimed title to the towpath along his river frontage (pages 107 and 114), complained about increased motorboat noise and damage to natural surroundings from the ongoing towpath work. When Berkson's attorney threatened a suit to enjoin the project on grounds that the Park Service had not complied with environmental and historic preservation laws, NCP Director Russell E. Dickenson agreed to stop the work and review the matter. Investigators sent by the Service's Washington headquarters concluded that the towpath was not being widened beyond its historic dimensions. [15]

That September, while the work was suspended, the park proceeded with a similar towpath improvement project along the slackwater above Dam 5. At one narrow point a rock cliff was blasted, fill was dumped into the river, and the towpath was surfaced with concrete. The Potomac Valley Conservation and Recreation Council organized a "walk-in" to protest the "ruthless destruction of natural beauty," Rep. Gilbert Gude wired NPS Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., to urge consultation with interested parties, and Berkson sought and obtained a court restraining order that held up all work on the canal for a time. The case was finally resolved on August 24, 1972, when Berkson accepted the Service's formal promise to follow all applicable legal compliance requirements thereafter. [16]

The imbroglio further hurt the Service's reputation among conservationists, following as it did the much-criticized towpath filling project at Widewater in 1970. When Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel P. Reed made a wry reference to it at the first meeting of the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park Commission in December 1971, John Frye responded sharply: "I'd like to say, Mr. Secretary, that the episode of trimming the trees and bulldozing the towpath really turned out not to be funny. In fact, it turned out to be a real tragedy, I think, because that set the work of this commission back about 15 years. . . . This mistake was made not so much from the environmental standpoint or the historic standpoint but from the fact that it turned public opinion completely around and we now have a hostile public whereas six months ago we didn't. Now we've almost got to start all over again." [17]

The controversy irreparably weakened McClanahan's position. On August 20, 1972, he was transferred to a staff assignment at NPS headquarters and replaced by William R. Failor. Failor, a Penn State graduate, had joined the Service's Eastern Office of Design and Construction as a landscape architect in 1956. From 1959 to 1968 he held various planning positions in the Philadelphia regional office, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, NCR, and the Service's Washington Planning and Service Center. He came to the canal from the superintendency of National Capital Parks-Central, the NCP unit responsible for Washington's monumental core.

Failor became the first superintendent of the entire park on July 1, 1974, when David Ritchie relinquished the lower part to him. The Antietam-C & O Canal Group was simultaneously disbanded, making the canal Failor's sole responsibility.

With a new superintendent appointed for Antietam and space at a premium there, canal headquarters could not long remain at Antietam. The acquisition of Ferry Hill for the park that April appeared to answer the need. This 39-acre property next to the canal at Sharpsburg across the Potomac from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, had a historic house and outbuildings well suited for headquarters purposes. The only problem was that the previous owner, who operated a restaurant in the house, insisted on retaining use of the house and five acres for four years. The Service tried to buy his retained right, but he demanded too high a price. As a result, the park set up temporary headquarters in trailers at the rear of the property. [18] James D. Young, the park's resource manager, moved there from Antietam at the end of 1974, but Failor and most of the staff did not complete the move until October 1976. After the previous owner's right of occupancy terminated in March 1979, the park converted the historic Ferry Hill house to offices. The long-awaited final move to them took place in April 1980.

William R. Failor
William R. Failor

Unification of the park under a single superintendent was followed by its internal division into three administrative districts. The Palisades District initially covered the lower 22 miles from Georgetown to Seneca; its boundary was extended to Mile 31 at Edwards Ferry in 1976. The Piedmont District ran from the Palisades District first to Mile 99 at Williamsport, then to Mile 106 below Dam 5. The Allegany District covered the remaining distance to Cumberland. Each had a district ranger and a maintenance supervisor reporting to a chief ranger (then titled chief, interpretation, recreation and resource management, or IR&RM) and a chief of maintenance at headquarters.

The greatest difficulties with this seemingly rational organization had to do with the Palisades District. For a number of reasons related to its different background and distinct character, it did not merge smoothly with its two counterparts in a well-coordinated park administration.

The U.S. Park Police had lost its patrol jurisdiction above Seneca when that part of the canal left National Capital Parks in 1958. It did not regain that jurisdiction when the upper canal returned to NCR in 1966, and it now saw its rivals in green—the law enforcement rangers—invading its turf below Seneca. A tense relationship developed between Palisades District Ranger James F. Martin and the park policemen assigned to his district but not under his control. On one occasion an officer arrested him for carrying a gun. [19]

Martin's successor in the early 1980s, Michael Brown, continued to sense what he termed the "paranoia" of the Park Police. He also found the Palisades District poorly supported by the distant park headquarters. The George Washington Memorial Parkway had kept the maintenance employees it wanted when the lower canal left its jurisdiction, and District Maintenance Supervisor Donald O. Foster received little help from Dale B. Sipes, the chief of maintenance. The perceived lack of support from Sharpsburg inclined the Palisades District's personnel to bypass that office, exacerbating a tendency that was probably inherent given the district's urban/suburban character, high visibility and use, relationships with the George Washington Parkway and Park Police, and proximity to the regional office. In effect there were two parks in uneasy confederation: the upper two districts, largely rural and undeveloped, looking to Sharpsburg; and the heavily used and developed Palisades District, exceeding many discrete national park system units in stature, often dealing directly with NCP/NCR. [20]

Superintendent Failor faced many other management challenges. Among them were the C & O Canal National Historical Park Commission and Richard L. Stanton.

Failor, who had spent much of his career planning for park development and who had lately supervised the major national parklands in the nation's capital, was a firm believer that "parks are for people." [21] He saw the canal accordingly—much as Dean McClanahan had. The most active members of the park commission, on the other hand, judged natural and historic preservation more important than development to attract and serve increased public use. Nancy Long, the commission's first chairman, soon became critical of what she viewed as Failor's insensitivity to park resources and failure to consult interested parties before undertaking various projects (such as the towpath bridge at Widewater).

As NCP's assistant director for cooperative activities from February 1972 to June 1977, Dick Stanton was the principal Park Service liaison with the commission. A forceful and dramatic personality, Stanton cultivated the members and aligned himself with their predominant philosophy, making little effort to hide his disregard for Failor in the process. Failor privately accused Long and Stanton of trying to manage the park; Stanton readily accepted the charge as it applied to him. According to the canal's chief ranger at the time, the two "drove Failor bananas—they ran the park, there was no doubt about that." After Stanton left NCR and Long's term as chairman expired in 1977, Failor found relations with the commission more to his liking. [22]

For the most part Failor got along well with the public. He was ultimately undone by internal management problems. Chief Ranger Richard G. O'Guin charged Dale Sipes with using government property and maintenance employees for his personal gain. The case was not satisfactorily resolved, and staff morale suffered. Failor was also hurt by a discrimination complaint filed by the head of the park's Young Adult Conservation Corps camp, even though he was finally exonerated. These and other difficulties contributed to his reassignment to NCR headquarters as regional chief of interpretation, recreation, and visitor services on January 24, 1981. [23]

Failor's successor was none other than his old adversary, Dick Stanton. Stanton's association with the canal had begun when he came to work for the Park Service in its lands office in 1965. He briefly headed the Service's Concessions Management Division before moving to NCP in 1972 as assistant director for cooperative activities. After leaving NCR in 1977, he served successively as regional director of the Service's Mid-Atlantic Region in Philadelphia and North Atlantic Region in Boston. His unhappiness in the latter post combined with his longstanding love of canoeing in the Potomac Valley led him to accept NCR Regional Director Jack Fish's offer of the canal superintendency, even though it entailed a demotion. Stanton arrived on duty February 8.

Richard L. Stanton

Stanton enjoyed good relations with the park commission, the C & O Canal Association, and most of the park's other constituencies. According to Carrie Johnson, commission chairman from 1982 to 1987, his policy was one of "aggressively coopting the commission" by actively courting its members and keeping nothing from them. Although some complained that he paid more attention to the river than the canal, the Potomac canoe trips he organized for Rep. Beverly Byron and other influential parties did much to win friends and funds for the park. [24]

Evidence that Dale Sipes was continuing to make personal use of park equipment and staff under Stanton prompted Sipes's exile to the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center. The positive effect of this action on park morale was not furthered by Stanton's controversial management style, which caused much unhappiness among his subordinates. Many found him overly demanding, uncommunicative, and unappreciative, and rifts developed at the highest levels of the park organization. He was thought to take little interest in the Palisades District, heightening its sense of alienation from headquarters. Ultimately he concluded that the district could not be run from Sharpsburg, and in 1987 he approved a new organization there headed by a district manager. Under this arrangement all Palisades personnel including the district ranger and maintenance supervisor came under Linda Toms, formerly the park's administrative officer. Toms served capably in the new position, but the district manager organization was unpopular at headquarters. Deprived of direct responsibility for the most developed and visited part of the park, the chiefs of law enforcement, maintenance, and interpretation there felt threatened by their loss of stature. Stanton encouraged Toms to deal directly with the regional office on many matters, heightening the sense of a park divided. [25]

Thomas O. Hobbs
Thomas O. Hobbs

Stanton retired on August 31, 1989, convinced that his overall record had made "the last eight years . . . the best for the park." Nancy Long praised him as "a dedicated, determined, and devoted park steward who strongly resisted attempts to undermine the integrity of the park," and most park supporters undoubtedly agreed with her positive evaluation. [26] Continuing to reside in Hagerstown, he was elected to the board of the C & O Canal Association and promised to remain active in park affairs.

Assistant Superintendent James D. ("J.D.") Young acted as superintendent until December 17, when Thomas O. Hobbs took over. Hobbs, a West Virginian, had joined the Park Service in 1962 as a ranger at Mesa Verde National Park. He held other ranger positions at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and Acadia National Park before serving as superintendent of Bryce Canyon National Park from 1976 to 1980 and chief ranger at Yellowstone National Park from 1980 to 1985. He came to the canal from the superintendency of Isle Royale National Park.

Hobbs's affable, low-key manner was well received among the park staff and the park's outside constituencies. After Linda Toms left her Palisades position for an assignment in Alaska, he reappraised the district manager arrangement and returned Palisades to organizational parity with the other districts. From NCR Regional Director Robert Stanton, he obtained official recognition that rangers with law enforcement commissions had equal standing with the Park Police in Palisades. He gave J.D. Young special liaison responsibilities with the district to insure that it got the support it needed from headquarters. Cooperation improved and tensions diminished, giving cause for optimism that the park might yet become truly integrated. [27]

Any survey of the park's management must take into account the role of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission over the years. The first commission for a national park system area resulted from the Cape Cod National Seashore act of 1961. When the canal park legislation went through a decade later, the idea was still quite new, and Park Service managers were still largely unaccustomed to involving outsiders in their decision-making.

The legislation required the secretary of the interior or his designee "from time to time but at least annually [to] meet and consult with the Commission on general policies and specific matters related to the administration and development of the park." It set a ten-year life span for the commission and five-year terms for its 19 members, who would receive no pay beyond compensation for expenses. The secretary's initial appointees were Nancy Long, Caroline Freeland, and Donald R. Frush, appointed directly; J. Millard Tawes and Vladimir Wahbe, recommended by the governor of Maryland; John G. Lewis and Thomas W. Richards, recommended by the governor of Virginia; Burton C. English and Louise Leonard, recommended by the governor of West Virginia; James G. Banks and Joseph H. Cole, recommended by the mayor of Washington, D.C.; Ronald A. Clites and Mary Miltenberger, recommended by the Allegany County commission; Kenneth R. Bromfield and James H. Gilford, recommended by the Frederick County commission; Grant Conway and Edwin F. Wesely, recommended by the Montgomery County council, and John Frye and Rome C. Schwagel, recommended by the Washington County commission. The secretary was empowered to name the chairman from among his three at-large appointees. He selected Long, a Glen Echo civic activist who had volunteered in Charles Mathias's and Gilbert Gude's political campaigns and had raised funds to purchase the historic Dentzel carousel at Glen Echo Park.

first park commission with NPS officials
The first park commission with NPS officials, January 29, 1972. Standing: Richard Stanton, James Guilford, Dean McClanahan, Kenneth Bromfield, James Banks, Jack Fish, Edwin Wesely, Louise Leonard, Ronald Clites, Vladimir Wahbe, Rome Schwagel, David Ritchie, John Frye. Sitting: Caroline Freeland, Mary Miltenberger, Grant Conway, Nancy Long, Donald Frush, John Lewis.

In the early years the commission met nearly every month. The park's general plan was its primary agenda item; it also dealt extensively with land acquisition and development issues. Not surprisingly, some members were more knowledgeable and involved than others. Also not surprisingly, members and Park Service staff formed differing opinions of the commission's value. Park officials thought that a few members, especially Long and Edwin Wesely, intervened unduly in park operations. Long sensed that the commission was "a very difficult pill for the Park Service to swallow." She found the Service uncommunicative and Dick Stanton combative at first. Stanton admitted that the Service did not readily accept the commission, but he and most other officials came to appreciate its usefulness during the planning process, when it became a vital medium for public involvement. [28]

The second commission, appointed December 21, 1976, included six holdovers from the first. Donald Frush was now chairman; Nancy Long and Constance A. Morella were the other at-large members. From Maryland, James B. Coulter replaced Millard Tawes. Margaret Dietz and Dorothy T. Grotos now represented Virginia. Dayton C. Casto, Jr., and Silas F. Starry represented West Virginia. Rockwood H. (Adam) Foster and Lorenzo W. Jacobs, Jr., represented the District; Donald Shannon replaced Jacobs in October 1979. From Allegany County came John Millar and Bonnie Troxell, from Frederick County James Gilford and Wilhelmina Pohlmann, from Montgomery County Edwin Wesely and Kenneth S. Rollins (replacing the deceased Grant Conway), and from Washington County R. Lee Downey and John Frye. With the park's general plan complete and land acquisition largely so, the new group met less frequently; its first meeting was delayed until April 1977. As noted, it became active in development concept planning at the end of the decade.

As the commission's January 8, 1981, expiration date neared, Congress amended the park act to extend its existence for another ten years. [29] The new commission did not meet until September 1982. Carrie Johnson was chairman, joined by Polly Bloedorn and Carl L. Shipley at large. Constance Lieder accompanied James Coulter from Maryland. Joan LaRock and Elise B. Heinz represented Virginia; the West Virginians were William H. Ansel and Silas Starry. Barry Passett succeeded Donald Shannon from the District. Montgomery County was represented by Marjorie Stanley and Barbara Yeaman. Edward K. Miller replaced John Frye from Washington County. The other two county delegations were unchanged.

The fourth commission, sitting at this writing, assembled after a year's hiatus in September 1988. The slippage was indicative of the commission's declining role. Sheila Rabb Weidenfeld was chairman; Dorothy Grotos and Samuel S. D. Marsh were the other at-large members. Keith A. Kirk and James F. Scarpelli represented Maryland, Elise Heinz and Charles P. Poland, Jr., represented Virginia, and Thomas F. Hahn and Ralph Albertazzie represented West Virginia. Allegany County sent Josephine L. Beynon and Robert L. Ebert, Montgomery County sent Nancy Long and Jo Reynolds, and Washington County sent Edward Miller and Sue Ann Sullivan. The District and Frederick County returned their previous delegations. With the commission due to expire in January 1991, Congress gave it another ten-year extension in 1990. [30]

Park Service officials and commission members polled in 1990 on the commission's usefulness rated it positively, for the most part. Although he chafed under the Long-Stanton regime through the mid-1970s, Bill Failor recalled the commission's value in developing the general plan, fostering communication with local groups and individuals, and impeding unwanted proposals. J.D. Young deemed it a worthwhile adjunct to a strung-out park serving diverse constituencies. He cited the role of members in lobbying Interior Department officials and members of Congress for funds and helping defend park policies in their jurisdictions. Dick Stanton considered the commission an asset during most of his tenure in the regional office and park. But he judged the current membership overly beholden to local interests, especially in Allegany County, and felt the commission had outlived its usefulness. [31]

John Frye thought the commission should have been allowed to expire after its first ten years (his term of service), when the planning and land acquisition processes were largely completed. During that period he found it valuable in redirecting planning away from the initial emphasis on recreational developments, which could not have been maintained with available resources. As a commission member with close ties to many in Washington County, he had served as an occasional intermediary between landowners seeking more lenient terms and park land acquisition personnel. [32]

Carrie Johnson appreciated how Nancy Long had established the commission as an active working group. She noted the value of having members with local connections to get things done. Unlike Park Service employees forced to go through channels, members could bring problems directly to the attention of the secretary of the interior and members of Congress. When Dick Stanton reported in 1982 that three aqueducts were in danger, she relayed the need for funds to Secretary James G. Watt and money was forthcoming. Three years later she was able to speak directly to Secretary Donald Paul Hodel about another $2 million in park needs. She believed that the Service recognized the commission as "a terribly useful sounding board and a terribly useful shield" during her chairmanship. [33]

Nancy Long thought the commission had been especially valuable in influencing the park's general plan, in helping to block numerous proposals for adverse development, and in serving as a forum for public involvement. The practice she had begun of holding meetings in different communities along the canal had encouraged public involvement and familiarized members with the whole canal. Unlike Stanton and Frye, she felt that the commission was still greatly needed in the face of increasing development pressures along the length of the park. [34]

Despite occasional frictions, the park has clearly benefitted from the existence of the commission and the commitment of its most dedicated members. Here, as in so many other national park system areas, private citizens have been vital partners with park managers in determining the overall public interest and working to achieve it.

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Last Updated: 11-Oct-2004