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Thread: C&O Conditions? (Washout near Brunswick)

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    Default C&O Conditions? (Washout near Brunswick)

    I recently planned a Pittsburgh to DC bike ride for this October, four days total (two on GAP, two on C&O). I was wondering if anyone had an update on the conditions of the C&O, particularly the washout near Brunswick and Point of Rocks. I saw a lot of people posting online within the past year that there was a detour due to a washed out bridge... and was wondering if this has been fixed yet.

    If not, I'm considering re-routing from Harpers Ferry to Purcellville and hitting the W&OD the rest of the way. I've already biked the C&O between DC and Harpers Ferry anyways, so it'd be an excuse to instead see the length of the W&OD (and get a break from the rough conditions of the C&O!)

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    Washout near Brunswick hasnít been fixed yet. Thereís a low water crossing in place that seems to be working okay for folks. The first part of the route after crossing the bridge in Brunswick is awful. Two lane highway with no shoulder and cars going 45-55 some of whom are not overly concerned with your well being.


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    Dang, still no legitimate fix? So if conditions are dry and it hasn't rained, easy peasy, but if there's lots of water it may not be passable?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Five Eight Five View Post
    Dang, still no legitimate fix? So if conditions are dry and it hasn't rained, easy peasy, but if there's lots of water it may not be passable?
    The C&O Canal Trust had an article last month that I recall as saying that NPS was going to install a permanent fix sometime next year.

    I havenít been by since the low water crossing was installed so I donít know what constitutes low versus high water. There was a service in town last year in Brunswick that would drive you around the washout.


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    Quote Originally Posted by The Five Eight Five View Post
    Dang, still no legitimate fix?
    You must be unaware of NPS's current financial condition?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    You must be unaware of NPS's current financial condition?
    NPS and the C&O Canal Trust are making significant investments in restoring and improving the Canal with a long range goal of rewatering the canal and providing a smooth and consistent trail surface.

    A 6.7 million dollar project to restore damage to the towpath and fix all of the weird and locks from Lock 5 to 22 was just completed.

    Work is very close to completion to repeater the Canal in Georgetown which will include lots of improvements and place making on the towpath. Recent story from WTOP: https://wtop.com/local/2019/09/histo...nal-boat-next/

    The C&O Canal Trust has resurfaced some of the worst sections of the towpath with the same material as the GAP trail. Theyíve secured several million to do more in 2020: https://www.canaltrust.org/2019/05/c...cing-underway/

    I believe the last C&O Canal Trust newsletter stayed that funding had been identified for a 2020 fix for the Brunswick washout but an electronic copy isnít available for me to confirm.

    For those who want to see a vibrant and maintained Canal as I do, joining the C&O Canal Trust as a member is a good way to get started. Their website is at https://www.canaltrust.org


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    Quote Originally Posted by Judd View Post
    NPS and the C&O Canal Trust are making significant investments in restoring and improving the Canal with a long range goal of rewatering the canal and providing a smooth and consistent trail surface.
    That's a pipe dream--the canal was a fundamentally bad design based on a misunderstanding of the prevailing conditions of the Potomac due to an unusually mild stretch of weather in the 18th century. What was expected to a 50-100 year cycle of flooding (and related damage) turned out to be a 20 year cycle of flooding and severe damage (and currently more like 10 years). The canal falls apart faster than it can be rebuilt with a reasonable level of investment. Stretches might be rewatered, but there's no way 184 miles of canal can be maintained without funding commitments that are unimaginable in the current political climate.

    A 6.7 million dollar project to restore damage to the towpath and fix all of the weird and locks from Lock 5 to 22 was just completed.
    To put that number into perspective, the 1996 flood caused $65 million in damage (with $23 million in post-flood disaster funding). The 2003 flooding caused $17 million in damage. The 2018 flooding caused $14 million in damage. The current maintenance backlog in the park is estimated at more than $100 million. Every little bit helps, but the reality is that the canal as it currently exists is unsustainable given the current funding model. Just keeping things from getting worse absent decadal storms is a challenge, given that staffing levels are around a fifth of what they should be. (Meaning that most of the park has no staff to show a presence to prevent petty vandalism, for example.) As a whole, NPS has an estimated maintenance backlog over $11 billion--so the odds of any park getting significant funding for anything other than critical projects are low. If you've been to Shenandoah lately you can see the same sort of thing: the park blew its entire maintenance budget clearing the trees that fell down last November (a project that lasted into May IIRC) so routine stuff like keeping the overlooks clear has been deferred indefinitely. I know the GW parkway division sent resources to help with that, as did a number of other regional offices (meaning those resources were then unavailable in their home office).

    I certainly encourage everyone to help however they can, but understand that the goal for today is to keep things limping along in hopes that the future will be better. Nothing will actually get "fixed" until until well-maintained parks become more of a national priority. Anyway, when you see something busted in a park, be understanding. And do what you can to keep things from getting worse. (Obey the signs!)

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    If you're on Facebook there is a group of about 5,000 folks that have really good updates about the GAP/C&O.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/gapcando/

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