A group of neighbors and local history lovers are planning a farewell party for The Georgetown canal boat, which will soon be transported to Fletchers Cove and destroyed. Certain parts of the boat will be kept for posterity.
Though National Park Service (NPS) Regional Director Steven Whitesell wrote in a letter dated Feb. 23 "Our long term plan for the boat is to preserve its legacy as a fixed interpretive and educational exhibit in Williamsport, Maryland," the boat will not become an exhibit.
NPS, which operates the C&O Canal and its historic outreach programs, determined that repairs to the mule-drawn 1870's replica boat would be "cost prohibitive," according to John Noel, a regional spokesperson for the agency.
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Arlette Cahen-Coppock, a local salon owner and French expat whose shop overlooks Lock 4 on the historic canal, loves the boat.
When The Georgetown was taken out of service, she gathered more than 200 signatures to encourage the Park Service to continue a mule-drawn boat program on the canal.
"Removing the boat, for me, is like removing the Eiffel tower from Paris" said Cahen-Coppock.
She described the pleasure of seeing the tour guides in period dress, led by a mule clopping along the canal each day.
"It looks like an Impressionist painting from the late 1800s. And every time the painting was different," she explained.
The boat has been in poor condition in recent years. It was taken out of service last season and even then required continued upkeep from NPS staff, who have had to bail out the water it takes on as it sits in the canal.
Cahen-Coppock said she knows now that she "lost the battle" despite her best efforts to save the boat— she even offered her electricity connection to help pump out the water.
She says she is moving on. But not without first saying "Goodbye."
Just as there is a celebration and champagne when a boat first launches, a boat such as The Georgetown should get a "farewell party," too, said Cahen-Coppock.
"The boat has a soul. The boat is like a person," she explained.
Considering the service it has done for the community, "the boat deserves a farewell party," said Cahen-Coppock.
She plans to wear black and to offer black balloons to those who come to see the boat off.
NPS has not determined when the boat will be removed from the neighborhood to be demolished.
The Park Service is now planning a launch boat program along the Georgetown section of the canal. The 30-foot, battery-powered boats are replicas of those that frequented the canal during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Noel told Patch that NPS "hopes" to be able to have another canal boat in Georgetown "at some point," but that the agency does not currently have the money.
"We wanted to save the boat," explained Cahen-Coppock. "Now what we want to do is find someone who can help us find funds for a new boat."
Patch will provide updates on the farewell party when The Georgetown's departure date is announced.
Want to know more about the history of The Georgetown and the C&O Canal? Check out our three videos from last year.