Parks and Recreation:

Patowmack Canal Preservation Responsibilities Being Met by Park Service

RCED-87-110: Published: Apr 23, 1987. Publicly Released: May 4, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the National Park Service's (NPS) responsiveness to a congressional mandate to preserve the Patowmack Canal in the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia. The canal opened in 1802 and was one of the earliest waterways in the United States to use canal locks.

GAO found that: (1) the NPS congressional mandate does not require it to reconstruct the canal, which is in poor condition because of silt, vegetation, and flooding; (2) NPS has a policy of not reconstructing sites for which original specifications do not exist; (3) NPS believes that complete reconstruction would eradicate the canal's present remains; (4) NPS identified three funding alternatives for reconstruction and decided to fully reconstruct a portion of the canal and partially restore the rest; (5) as of March 1987, the restoration project ranked 199th among 595 projects nationally, 15th among 57 projects in the NPS National Capital Region, and 5th among 11 projects in the Parkway; (6) NPS officials believe that restoration may not begin until 1989; and (7) there was no legal basis to conclude that NPS was not meeting its statutory responsibilities.

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