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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today I am proud to reintroduce legislation to support greater public involvement in the administration of one of Maryland's most treasured National Historical Parks. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission Act ensures that the communities located along the 184 1/2 mile-long C&O Canal National Historical Park have a voice with the National Park Service regarding decisions affecting the administration of the Park. The Commission keeps the people and small businesses most affected by the operation of the C&O Canal National Historical Park informed and involved in the decisions surrounding the Park. Citizen involvement in the governmental process is a hallmark of our democracy and the C&O Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission Act exemplifies the goal of ensuring the public's role in government decision making.

The importance of the Commission is intrinsically tied to the uniqueness of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The Park covers an area of 20,000 acres winding North and West along the Potomac River from the heart of Georgetown's old industrial district in Washington D.C. to Cumberland, MD nestled in the valleys and mountains of Western Maryland. The Park's watered canal, contiguous towpath, popular among cyclists, backpackers, day hikers and runners, hundreds of historic structures and towns like Hancock, Hagerstown, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, Williamsport and Sharpsburg that grew during the Canal's heyday, all tell the story of how the C&O Canal once served as a crucial East/West commercial link. The Park also preserves pristine views of the Potomac River, evocative of the C&O Canal's working days. At its widest points, the C&O Canal National Historical Park spans less than two-tenths of a mile across and in many areas directly abuts neighboring commercial and residential properties bordering the Park.

During the commercial operation of the C&O Canal, these towns were local commercial centers where area farmers and tradesman utilized the canal boats to deliver their goods to market. Today, the hospitality and tourism industries of these communities thrive upon the C&O Canal National Historical Park's popularity and are integral to enhancing the park user experience. Whether it is a hotel or Bed and Breakfast to spend the night in, a restaurant or diner to grab a meal, stores to shop in and perhaps stock up on camping provisions, boathouses to rent a canoe for the afternoon, bike shops to service a flat tire or make repairs to your bike or any of the myriad of goods and services park visitors may need, the communities along the C&O Canal are as important to the Park user experience as the Park's users are to maintaining their businesses.

In 2009, more than 3.75 million people visited the C&O Canal National Historical Park. To put it in perspective, in 2009, more people visited this historic treasure than the number of people who visited Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Everglades or Shenandoah National Park. Much of the C&O Canal National Historical Park's success is attributable to the positive relationship that has developed over time between the National Park Service and the local community leaders that span the length of the Park. The Park's Commission has greatly facilitated this relationship.

The Commission provides the vital link between the affected communities that the Park runs through and the National Park Service. The Commission ensures that the public is engaged in the numerous processes surrounding operational policy and infrastructure maintenance and restoration projects on the C&O Canal National Historic Park. The Commission plays a vital consultation and planning role for park activities and operations. The cooperation that has developed between the Commission and the National Park Service helps tie the Park to its communities. The Commission serves a purely advisory function and does not have the authority to make binding park policy.

The Commission was first established as part of the 1971 Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Development Act sponsored by Rep. Gilbert Gude, R-MD. Every ten years, a bill like mine comes before Congress, when the 10-year extension of the Commission's authorization expires. Three times over a 40-year period extension bills have passed by unanimous consent and without controversy. My bill is another 10-year extension of the Advisory Commission's authorization and makes no changes to the Commission's authority. Legislative precedent has never set an authorization amount for the Commission, but the Commission has always functioned at a nominal cost.

The General Services Administration's Federal Advisory Commissions Act database determined that the C&O Canal Advisory Commission's expenses totaled $33,199 for fiscal year 2010. All expenses came out of the National Park Service's general operating budget. Expenses covered the cost of travel for commission members, $295, Federal staff time, $28,074, and miscellaneous expenses, $4,830, like meeting space, printing, supplies and website maintenance.

The National Park System is a showcase of America's natural and historical treasures. So much of the National Park System's success is rooted in the citizen stewardship projects and the involvement of caring citizens and community leaders. Like so many of our National Parks the C&O Canal National Historical Park has an extensive backlog of maintenance and repair projects. The Commission plays a critical role in helping keep these projects moving forward and assisting the National Park Service with their completion because there is recognition of the shared responsibility between the Park Service and the Commission about the importance of continuing to make the Park a desirable tourism and outdoor recreation destination. The Commission provides that bridge between the government and public. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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