Canal Towns Reap Economic Benefits:
Confirmation Provided by Recent National Park Service Report
Hagerstown, MD – Three years ago, nine communities along C&O Canal began forming the Canal Towns Partnership, an economic development initiative with the goal of cooperatively marketing and making improvements, such as the addition of bike lanes and bike racks, to attract visitors to the canal’s gateway communities.
A recent National Park Service report on the economic impact of visitor spending substantiated what the Canal Towns already knew, that the communities’ proximity to the C&O Canal National Historical Park yields significant economic advantages.
The report shows that more than 4.1 million visitors in 2010 spent $53.1 million, an increase of $6.1 million from 2009, in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and in communities near the park in 2010. Nearly $34 million of the revenue was from non-local visitors. That spending supported approximately 700 jobs in the local communities.
“The C&O Canal is enjoyed by many local residents as well as visitors from around the country who come to bike or hike along the 184.5 mile-long towpath,” said Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt.
The communities involved in the Canal Towns Partnership, which officially launched in September 2011, have been committed to working with one another to capitalize on opportunities to increase trail and park-related visitation as well as to assist the C&O Canal National Historical Park personnel in ensuring the highest quality visitor experience.
Although each of these towns had a multitude of readily available services for visitors, there were some gaps in signage, regional marketing, and amenities such as bike racks, public restrooms, benches, etc. Working together, with the backing of the C&O Canal Trust, the park’s official nonprofit partner, the Canal Town Partnership has installed business directory kiosks, produced visitor brochures, launched a Canal Towns web site, developed a regional calendar of events and are now adding bike lanes, bike racks, public restrooms and water, benches and other amenities.
According to the national report, most of the spending/jobs are related to these amenities and others, such as lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).
Walt Stull, Chairman of the partnership and Brunswick Town Councilman, “By working cooperatively, all of our communities are benefiting and building relationships that will provide us with long-term economic benefits. Getting park visitors to come into our towns to shop, eat, and fill their gas tanks is just a good, common sense strategy.”
As Brandt said, “The economic benefits from the Canal are felt throughout many communities in Maryland as well as neighboring states.”
To download the full report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010.
The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. For more on how the National Park Service is working within Maryland, go to www.nps.gov/Maryland.
For more information on the Canal Towns Partnership and its economic and community development efforts, visit www.CanalTowns.org. Additional information on the C&O Canal Trust can be found at www.CanalTrust.org.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves and interprets the historical, natural, and recreational resources of the C&O Canal. Over 4,100,000 visitors a year enjoy the opportunities for recreation and understanding that the park has to offer. For more information, visit the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/choh.
Founded in 2007, the C&O Canal Trust is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect, restore, and promote the C&O Canal National Historical Park. As the official “friends” organization for the park, the Trust seeks to ensure that the C&O Canal’s natural, historical, and recreational potential is fully realized. Among the programs it supports is the Canal Towns Partnership. For more information, visit the Trust’s web site at www.CanalTrust.org.