CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — The National Park Service says it’s considering closing a leaky Chesapeake and Ohio Canal turning basin at the center of a state-owned tourism development in downtown Cumberland.
Backfilling the quarter-mile basin would deal a blow to struggling Canal Place, a history-themed, economic revitalization project that has received more than $22 million in state funds since 1994.
The turning basin, rewatered in 2006, appears to be leaking into nearby Wills Creek, the water source for the project, Chief Ranger Brad Clawson told the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority on Tuesday.
He told the Cumberland Times-News that repairing the leak would likely be costly.
“We are looking at every avenue. We are also considering filling it in with dirt,” Clawson told the newspaper for a story published Thursday.
Clawson also reported the failure of one of two large pumps meant to eventually rewater more than a mile of the canal for boat rides. Canal boat rides have long been offered at the park’s eastern end in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, about 185 miles downstream.
The news comes as Canal Place struggles with losses estimated at $27,000 this year and $100,000 in fiscal 2015, which begins July 1. The city and Allegany County plan to stop giving Canal Place local hotel-and-motel tax dollars next year, contending the project should support itself.
Canal Place includes the restored Western Maryland Railway Station and a small collection of nearby restaurants and shops. The Great Allegheny Passage, a bicycling route from Pittsburgh, ends near the station. Bikers and hikers can continue along the canal to Washington, following a towpath that parallels the Potomac River. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers steam-powered train rides to Frostburg, 16 miles west.
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