"It is a refuge, a place of retreat, a long stretch of quiet and peace at the Capital's back door . . ." —William O. Douglas
Look around you. The park you stand in exists because people cared. In January 1954, Justice William O. Douglas of the Supreme Court of the United States responded to a Washington Post editorial recommending that the C&O Canal be turned into a parkway. Writing in support of preserving the canal as a national park, Douglas wrote, "It is a sanctuary that would be utterly destroyed by a fine two lane highway." He invited the editors and other reporters to join him on a hike of the entire canal to enjoy its beauty and better understand his point. Merlo Pusey, who wrote the editorial, and his editor Robert Estabrook accepted the challenge.
On March 22, 1954, the hike began near Cumberland. Douglas and his companions invited authorities on the natural and cultural history of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal to join them. The hikers learned about the canal and enjoyed the scenery. After the hike, Estabrrok wrote an editorial in the Post supporting setting the canal aside as a national park. The walk, and the news stories it generated, motivated hundreds to fight to save the canal. In 1961 the C&O Canal was preserved as a National Monument. Through Douglas's action and the efforts of those he inspired, this park was preserved for you to enjoy. If you would like to learn what you can do to help care for the park, visit the nearest park visitor center.