With the reopening of the Anglers breach Saturday in Potomac, the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park towpath became whole again.
"This is the last spot on the towpath that needed to be repaired from Cumberland, Md., all the way to Georgetown; and frankly itís the first time in probably 40 years that the towpath has been whole...as it was originally intended in 1828," Kevin D. Brandt, park superintendent, said.
The National Park Service reopened the path at Anglers more than four years after a September 2008 sinkhole and water from Tropical Storm Hannah eroded it.
A hole in the clay lining of the canal allowed water to penetrate deep under the towpath, weakening and cracking the path until it eventually breached, Daniel A. Copenhaver, chief of preservation and project management for the park, said.
A $100,000 donation by the C&O Canal Trust on behalf of the community made the $3.3 million repair project eligible for public funding and completion.
Now, a PVC liner and more than 1,000 cubic yards of concrete protect the path at Anglers from another breach.
"Not only did we repair a breach, but a whole section of the canal in a stabilizing way that repeat failure should not happen," Copenhaver said.
To those passing by, the 1,100 foot section of new path might not appear different from the rest of the towpath or its original self.
"When you're standing on the towpath and you look around you, you don't really know that any work has maybe even gone on because it looks normal, it looks like it's supposed to," Brandt said.
In a few weeks, the National Park Service also plans to return water to the lower stretch of the canal for the first time in four years.
The September 2008 breach also prevented water from flowing down the canal to Washington, D.C., Brandt said.
"Literally, people are just so relieved and overjoyed to have water back," he said.
And as the region heads into winter, Brandt said park officials hope to be able to have enough water in the canal that if it freezes, people could ice skate on its surface, as they did previously.