Winter '12

From the President

By David G. Barber

I have just returned from 2-1/2 weeks in the United Kingdom during which my wife and I spent two weeks boating on the Llangollen Canal and the northern end of the Shropshire Union Canal in England and Wales. The Llangollen is considered the UK’s most popular canal and the upstream end includes such features as the Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel and the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The final approach into Llangollen itself is a very narrow waterway cut high on a hillside. Very impressive original and recent engineering abounds.

The rest of the route between Ellesmere and Ellesmere Port is however quite different passing through a generally flat terrain of farm fields and woods. While this area cannot be compared to the narrow valley of say the Delaware Division Canal in Pennsylvania, I could not help but think how it would resemble much of the Ohio and Erie and Miami and Erie Canals in Ohio if only they had water and were navigable. While the Llangollen Canal is a “narrow” canal with locks 70’ x 7’, the northern Shropshire Union Canal is a “wide” canal with locks 70’ x 15’. Those compare very closely with Ohio’s 90’ x 15’ locks.

We were in the UK in September, which is not the “high” season. Yet, the number of rental and private boats moving was very impressive. Equally impressive is the number and value of the private narrowboats moored in the several marinas we passed. The volume of extra business in canal side pubs and shops must be significant.

Why can’t this type of commerce be happening in St. Marys, Delphos, Defiance, Massillon, or Navarre, Ohio? Why not in Bristol, Reigelsville, or Freemansburg, PA? There is nothing really different between UK and US canals except that they have preserved and are restoring and using theirs and we aren’t. While I enjoy visiting the UK, I really hate the expense and jet lag of a 6-1/2 hour flight just so I can go canal boating. When we talk of stimulus grants and “shovel ready” projects, why can’t we have a few canal items in the queue?

On a different subject, I want to point out restoration progress that is happening in 2011. In Wisconsin on September 11th, the Berlin Boat Club began the dewatering of the Eureka Lock for restoration. A contractor was then expected to spend the following 30 to 60 days rehabbing the lock to restore it to navigation. This will restore the connection along the Upper Fox River between Berlin, WI, and Lake Winnebago. In April and July, I observed a contractor for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the Ohio & Erie Canal actively replacing the Tinkers Creek Aqueduct. It looked like this project will be completed by fall.

On the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, work is proceeding on several major projects. Included is the rebuilding of the Catoctin Creek Aqueduct which was 2/3rds destroyed by flood waters in 1973. A ribbon cutting ceremony of the rebuilt and strengthened aqueduct is scheduled for October 15th. This shows that the National Park Service, consulting engineers, and contractors can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Elsewhere on the C&O Canal, contractors are rebuilding the towpath in the Big Slackwater section that has been closed by erosion for many years. Plans are also underway to restore Lock 44, lift bridge, basin, and Conococheague Creek Aqueduct at Williamsport, MD. The aqueduct is noted for having its berm wall destroyed by a boat in 1920. We need more projects like these.

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