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See the latest designs for the Georgetown C&O Canal refresh

James Corner Field Operations project entails canal’s historic structures, improved access, and mule yard

The C&O Canal in Georgetown
Tupungato/Shutterstock

Plans are in the works to make the first mile of the C&O Canal in Georgetown more inviting, and as part of that effort, officials last week unveiled updated concepts for the revitalization project at a community meeting. The National Park Service (NPS) and Georgetown Heritage, a nonprofit, are jointly developing the project with help from the D.C. Office of Planning and the Georgetown Business Improvement District. (Public comment is now open until May 11.)

The project is being designed by James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architecture firm that shaped New York’s High Line and Cleveland’s Public Square, among other projects. At the C&O Canal, the team plans to “focus on addressing deferred maintenance issues and related safety and accessibility concerns associated with the towpath; improving connections between Georgetown and the [canal] towpath; [and] enhancing visitor experience through increased signage and optimizing underutilized areas,” notes a project overview. The team will prepare a required environmental assessment after finalizing the concept alternatives.

Slides via National Park Service/Georgetown Heritage presentation

The project is broken down into five main areas: mile-marker zero at the Potomac River; the Rock Creek confluence; the locks; the market plazas; and the aqueduct. Among the would-be changes are repairs to the canal’s historic structures, dedicated educational spaces, a mule yard, and a new visitor center. Currently, several points along the canal are not friendly to pedestrians or people with disabilities, and these points would be improved under the plans.

Last week, officials allowed water to flow back into parts of the canal to test recently rebuilt Locks 3 and 4 “in preparation for the eventual return of a reproduction canal,” according to NPS and Georgetown Heritage. Below are the project alternatives that were presented at the community meeting. Funds must yet be secured for the project. The canal extends 185 miles.