By CALEB CALHOUN
5:42 PM EDT, May 1, 2012
To help encourage visitors on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal to take a detour into Sharpsburg, town residents took part Tuesday in the unveiling of an interpretive exhibit at Snyder’s Landing along the canal towpath.
“This will help bring industry to the town,” said Sharpsburg resident David Peters, 74. “People will see the signs, and they’ll remember Sharpsburg.”
The exhibit includes three signs showing the relationship between the canal and Sharpsburg, how to reach Sharpsburg a little more than mile away, and how to get to Williamsport and Shepherdstown, W. Va.
Sharpsburg resident Natoma Reed-Vargason, 53, who operates a catering business called Cookies Cooking Co. just off the towpath at Snyder’s Landing, said the exhibit will help draw interest to the town.
“This will help businesses and interest in the town,” Reed-Vargason said. “We see people coming off the towpath property all the time asking how to get to Sharpsburg.”
The exhibit also supports the Canal Towns Partnership, according to a news release from the U.S. National Park Service. The partnership is an economic initiative formed three years ago by nine communities along the canal to attract visitors.
Sharpsburg Town Councilwoman Jennifer Silbert, 51, said that she hopes the exhibit will get more people to stop in the town.
“We see so many cyclists and tourists coming in and out of Sharpsburg,” she said. “To date, we have not optimized what we can offer, and I’m hoping this is going to draw more attention to reinvigorating businesses in Sharpsburg.”
This is the third such wayside exhibit to be installed in Washington County, with the other two directing visitors to Hancock and Williamsport, the release said.
Others have been installed near Point of Rocks and Brunswick in Frederick County, Md., and Shepherdstown, W.Va. Another is to be installed near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., later this year.
The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau provided the funds for the exhibits in Sharpsburg, Williamsport and Hancock.
Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt said the exhibits highlight the relationships between the canal and the towns along it.
“From 1828 to 1924, the canal operated as a piece of national infrastructure carrying goods,” Brandt said. “It also served as a communication tool for the people in the communities along the canal.”
Vernell Doyle, president of the Sharpsburg Historical Society, said the town had a major connection to the canal, but it often went unnoticed.
“Sharpsburg is 1.2 miles off the canal, while the other towns are right along the canal,” she said. “But it was a very important canal town.
“At one time, 48 percent of the canal-boat captains hailed from Sharpsburg,” Doyle said.
In 2010, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park generated slightly more than $53 million in visitor spending and 4.1 million visitors, according to the visitors bureau.
Brandt said that the park can be used for more than just recreational activities.
“When you come to the C&O Canal, there are no restaurants, no hotels to stay in, no places to buy bicycle repairs, or things like that,” he said. “We want people to go in and not only take advantage of those services, but take advantage of the history that occurs, and is still occurring, in those communities.”
Copyright © 2013, Herald Mail