Why is the C&O Canal National Park so special? “It’s one of those sacred places everyone needs at home,” said C&O Canal Trust Board Member Francis Grant-Suttie. “Here is this extraordinary place in our own backyard where you can sit on a rock and meditate, hike, run, kayak or walk your dogs. There’s always something going on in nature and if you slow down, listen and observe, you can see what nature will put in your pathway.”
Potomac residents are frequent volunteers, helping to maintain the park, its locks, the lockhouses, trails and more. Members of the Canal Trust along with the National Park Service, Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern and the C&O Canal Association are the stewards who keep the park a gem for all.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, the Canal Trust will host the 8th annual “Park After Dark” benefit gala from 6-10 p.m. at the Historic Great Falls Tavern. Three hundred guests will gather in a candlelit setting to feast on food from Corcoran Caterers, consume libations, dance to the sounds of the 19th Street Band, enjoy s‘mores by the campfire, mingle with friends old and new and bid on silent auction items.
"We are excited to be hosting our 8th Annual Park After Dark fundraiser to benefit the C&O Canal National Historical Park,” said Heidi Glatfelter Schlag, director of marketing and communications for the C&O Canal Trust. “This event is a unique opportunity for park lovers to come together in a picturesque setting under the stars to raise money for the C&O Canal. The theme is ‘My Canal.’ Attendees will be able to tell their canal stories through writing or drawing, and then hang them on a "towline" — like a clothesline, but named after the towlines used to pull the canal boats. We will also have an audio recorder for people who want to share their stories orally. There will also be pins available featuring various canal activities — kayaking, running, dog walking, etc. — that we hope people will wear, so they can meet others at the event who share their interests.”
Schlag continued, “We will be holding a paddle-raise at this year's event to raise funds to sustainably restore sections of the towpath damaged by years of heavy traffic and the spring floods, which caused over $14 million in damage. Repairs will include fixing the breach at Mile 52.5 near Brunswick, filling in wash-out, removing tree roots and other hazards, grading the towpath for better drainage, and resurfacing it with a material similar to that used on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail trail. The goal for the evening is to raise $35,000 or more to support the project.”
Michael Mitchell, chairman of the board of the Canal Trust, said, “Park After Dark is an extremely important fundraiser because the Interior Department, which funds all the U.S. National Parks, is severely underfunded. Just in our park, we have gone from a staff of 135 to 75 — and that makes the volunteer programs such as the Canal Trust even more important and necessary. We must not only complete a lot of the work that was formerly done by the National Park Service, but we must be able to fund it. We are excited that we recently received a grant from the State of Maryland to re-water the canal. This will be an amazing engineering project which will open up more recreational space for all.
“We are very appreciative for the substantial amount of funding from our corporate and individual sponsors such as the Marriott Foundation, Daofeng and Angela Foundation, A.R. Landsman Foundation, Jewell Foundation and Kiplinger Foundation, Minkoff Development Corporation, Quality Systems and Products and many more.”
“What do I like best about the Canal?” Mitchell answered, “It’s a one-stop shop for so many things in our lives. Our sons completed their requirements for Eagle Scouts at the Canal. Our family loves the outdoors and it’s a beautiful location for photography. The history is so important to our nation — and I’m just fortunate to have a legacy leadership role. The C&O Canal brings so much of what I love together all in one place. I’m looking forward to an incredible Park After Dark event with great auction items, good food and dancing. We want everyone to come and share in the joy of a special evening in a beautiful, natural setting.”
Reserve tickets now. Tickets are $250 or a table of eight is $2,000. Sponsorships are still available and live auction items are always welcome. Go to https://www.canaltrust.org/park-after-dark/ to purchase tickets or for more information.