- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton yesterday kicked off the renovation of a historic C&O; Canal lockhouse as part of the 11th annual National Public Lands Day, one of the largest volunteer activities in the country.

Despite the forecast of rain, organizers expect 3,000 volunteers to fan out across the Washington area today to spruce up public lands by removing invasive plants, painting and picking up debris.

“We are delighted that so many people are getting involved and taking care of our public lands. We want to thank the folks who are the organizers of National Public Lands Day, [which] began in 1994. … It helps us both improve the public lands and educate Americans about the importance of our public lands,” Mrs. Norton said.

“It is also an opportunity for all of us who hike, bike, climb and canoe and do all of those things — enjoying our public lands — to spend a day giving back,” she said.

Yesterday, the interior secretary rolled up her sleeves and grabbed a paint roller to work alongside a group of student volunteers from Georgetown University Law Center. They painted the inside of Lockhouse 8, a structure that is more than 170 years old, along the C&O; Canal.

“As most may know the history here [at the lockhouse], the canal itself was once envisioned as the vital supply link between Washington and the West. Technology overtook it, but today it is a vital link between Washingtonians and the outdoors,” Mrs. Norton said.

Patti Pride, director of National Public Lands Day, said yesterday that the daylong volunteer effort that attracts some 90,000 volunteers across the country would go on as scheduled today despite the threat of rain from the remains of Hurricane Ivan.

“It’s a go. Rain or shine, there are enough things to be done,” she said.

Ms. Pride said volunteers will continue to work at Lockhouse 8 — painting the interior of the structure and weeding to make room for native plants.

“Most of the projects [in the District, Maryland and Virginia] are scheduled to go ahead. Belle Haven [and] Dyke Marsh along the George Washington Parkway has been postponed because anticipated water levels [might] be too high,” she said.

Many events across the area were cancelled yesterday because of predicted bad weather forecast for the weekend. The 12th annual Community Improvement Day, sponsored by the D.C. Building Industry at Benning Park Recreation Center in Southeast, has been rescheduled for Oct. 2.

The “Healthcare on Wheels” Health Fair sponsored by Georgetown University Hospital Kids Mobile Medical Clinic and the West of the River Family Strengthening Collaborative has been rescheduled for sometime in October.

In Maryland, the second annual Race for Victims of Violence/FundRun Autumn Trek at Watkins Park in Upper Marlboro has been tentatively rescheduled for Oct. 23.

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