What A Reinvented Georgetown Canal Could Look Like

by Lark Turner

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is a part of DC’s history, but in the stretch that intersects Georgetown, visitors can tell its time has past. With a rocky, unpaved path stretching along a frequently-deserted waterway, it’s hard to imagine bustling life on the canal.

To help bring it into the present, Georgetown’s business-led plan, Georgetown 2028, wants to update the C&O Canal and make it friendlier for residents and tourists. MakeDC, an organization that participated in the 2028 process, drew up some informal renderings to represent what a completed canal might look like.

Here’s the canal towpath as it is today:

What A Reinvented Georgetown Canal Could Look Like: Figure 1

And here’s what it could look like with a wider, paved pathway:

What A Reinvented Georgetown Canal Could Look Like: Figure 2
A reimagined canal by Make DC.

Realizing the canal project, however, will be a long time coming, said Joe Sternlieb, the CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID).

“Raising the kind of money to redo the locks, stabilize the walls, make sure it all comes together — well, it’s a heavy lift,” Sternlieb told UrbanTurf on Monday.

Georgetown BID is working with the National Park Service to come up with a fundraising plan for the canal. Sternlieb estimated that the BID and the NPS could come to an agreement by the end of the year. The current challenge is figuring out how to fund a new canal barge, which requires not just upstart funding for a new boat but ongoing maintenance and other costs once it’s up and running.

Sternlieb also explained why the old barge, which is too damaged to restore, is still sitting in the canal near Lock 4 in Georgetown, which UrbanTurf mentioned in last week’s look at a unique street fronting the canal. The BID was hoping to eventually hang a banner on the boat to advertise the fundraising for its replacement.

As for whether or not Make DC’s vision of a new canal is generally realistic, Sternlieb was enthusiastic — but poured a little cold water on the whole thing, too.

“It’s very expensive. It’s very difficult to do,” he said. “Getting the approvals will be the least difficult part of the project. The hardest part will be raising the money.”

Here are a couple more renderings to dream about while we’re waiting for 2028:

What A Reinvented Georgetown Canal Could Look Like: Figure 3

What A Reinvented Georgetown Canal Could Look Like: Figure 4

If that’s not enough, you can check out Make DC’s vision of a fashion show on one of the locks.

All renderings courtesy of MakeDC.

See other articles related to: make dc, georgetown bid, georgetown 2028, georgetown, c&o canal

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/what_a_reinvented_co_canal_might_look_like/8247


  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 7:17 pm on Wednesday March 19, 2014:
    This is an excellent idea. Obviously, it would require some major funders, but I'd bet that a community-based initiative, designed to draw a large number of relatively modest donations from individuals, could provide a valuable complement to the big-ticket sponsors.
  1. ARC Berkeley said at 8:07 pm on Wednesday March 19, 2014:
    Great ideas but how will the canal be kept flowing in the hot summer months? it dries up every summer.
  1. RaiderDan said at 3:20 pm on Thursday March 20, 2014:
    One of the great things about DC's revival (Southwest Waterfront, Ballpark, Columbia Heights, Downtown DC) is that it will push and motivate other neighborhoods like Georgetown to maximize their appeal. Frankly, G-town should have been doing this two decades ago, but its good to see moving along. If Georgetown is looking for a model, look no further than Frederick's river walk in downtown where I live. It has become a destination and hopefully Georgetown can do the same.
  1. Mike Nardolilli said at 4:46 pm on Friday March 21, 2014:
    As President of the C&O Canal Trust, the official nonprofit partner of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, I served on the Public Spaces Working Group of the Georgetown 2028 Plan. We developed an exciting vision but funding these improvements will take the full commitment of the community.

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