The October meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association (WMCCA) was held via Zoom Wednesday, Oct 14. The meeting featured electing the group’s officers followed by an update on the condition of the C&O Canal National Historical Park by Superintendent Tina Cappetta.
Cappetta took over the role of Superintendent in January 2020, returning to a park where she worked as Chief of Resources Management 18 years ago.
“Some things have changed since I was last here,” Cappetta told the group. “It’s interesting being back. I wondered what happened to the staff; there were 122 [on staff], now there are roughly half.”
Cappetta said visits to the park “skyrocketed” after COVID-19 hit the area.
“We had a real challenge trying to manage, to keep staff and visitors safe,” she said.
Eighteen years ago, she said, the park had 3.5 million visitors per year. Last year there were five million visitors, and this year they are looking at 6 million visitors.
With the increase in the number of people, there is a lot of trash, she said.
“A lot of trash,” she repeated. “Graffiti has increased and there is an increase in large parties, a challenge to our security staff.”
“We are so thankful for the volunteers who have been helping us through the years and have stepped up to help [this year],” she said.
In another change, Cappetta said she is sad to see the [canal] boats are not operating at Great Falls or in Georgetown, but she does expect they will be back next summer.
Another “sad thing” she said was the increased development next to the park which creates problems with erosion and water quality. She spent time talking about environmental issues relating to deer in the park.
The budget, too, has changed since she last worked at the park. When she last worked at C&O NHP the budget was $7.5 million per year. Last year it was $9.5 million and this year it is $9 million.
She spent time sharing some of the many improvements to the park that were recently completed, are now in the works and are planned.
The canal, she said, was in very bad shape when the Federal Government acquired it in 1938.
Among the current studies of the history of the canal one is the Historic Resource Study of African Americans and the C&O Canal from Antebellum to Post Reconstruction.
“African Americans did much of the work repairing the canal,” she said.
Cappetta took a number of questions following her talk. WMCCA members are well acquainted with the park, and so had a number of questions ranging from what they can do to help, and when are some of the many volunteer services the park offered would be running again to specifics on repairs. What Cappetta could not answer she promised to get answers to and get back with the group.
During the years between her services at C&O National Historical Park, Cappetta served as superintendent of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore; Hampton National Historic Site, Towson, Md.; and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, Baltimore; the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, NY, where she led the rehabilitation of the Wesleyan Chapel; as chief of interpretation and resources management at Booker T. Washington National Monument, Westlake Corner, Va.; education specialist at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, New Orleans; park ranger at Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown, Va.; and Gettysburg National Military Park.
Last January when her assignment as Superintendent was announced, Cappetta said, “I’m honored and eager to lead the team in the park’s next chapter, including celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021.”