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I was glad to see Erik Wemple’s piece against mindlessly pouring money into maintaining the C&O Canal (“Hate Canal,” 11/7) (OK, he was a little extreme), but the letters you got in response were, sadly, too predictable and sappy. Any time someone questions the wisdom of trying to maintain this poorly conceived engineering folly, defenders of the canal seem to argue that the only alternative is shopping malls up all 184 miles of the Potomac shore.
The river, and the parkland on either side, will surely always be with us (well, for a few hundred thousand more years). Why we spend several million dollars a year to maintain this faux canal is what is questionable. It is a stagnant ditch, built into the riverbed in many spots. It was not a particularly bright idea to build it back then, but it is even stupider to try to maintain it 150-odd years later. Instead of confronting the substance of Wemple’s article, your letter writers resort to smug or simple-minded arguments about defending trees and fish, as if the issue were protecting the river rather than protecting this fake replica of a canal. Wemple was on target in pointing out that the canal’s users are largely Volvo-driving yuppie types. People all over the U.S. are paying taxes so that well-heeled Washington suburbanites can spend some quality time jogging by the river without getting their $90 running shoes too muddy. The C&O Canal Park is a nice park and should remain a park; let’s just pull the plug on this canal business.
via the Internet