The C&O Canal National Historic Park is hoping to draw more minority visitors this summer with a new initiative called Canal For All.
“When you are hiking in the path, it is a largely homogenous user group that’s out there, and that’s pretty true across the nation for national parks. We are seeing a visitorship that isn’t reflected of the community at large,” said Becky Curtis, Director of Program and Partnerships, C&O Canal Trust.
Canal For All, a program by the C&O Canal Trust, gives diverse communities the opportunity to play, learn and serve all at the historic parks.
“We are looking at providing those fee-free nights at our canal quarters [and] lock houses for nonprofit groups. We are looking to have volunteer experiences where they can come out and serve, particularly for the young folks, where students can get their learning service hours,” Curtis stated.
With the help of a grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation and the Kendeda Fund, the pilot program will begin in Montgomery County over the next two years, specifically focusing on connecting the Latino and African American communities to the park.
“The major [barriers], when working with diverse communities and bringing them to national parks, is a lot of them haven’t had experiences of coming to these national parks before. So, there is a comfort level of having this partner where you can come out and just do a hike, come fishing or kayaking with,” said Curtis.
After kicking off in Montgomery County, the pilot will make its way to Hagerstown.