Hot Spot

C&O Canal National Historical Park 2018

Williamsport, MD

The C&O Canal National Historic Park’s Bear Island is owned and managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy. It lies in the Potomac River Gorge, just 12 miles north of Washington, DC. Bear Island is considered one of the most biologically rich natural wonders in the eastern United States. Though it is only 96 acres in size, there are 200 rare species and natural communities living on the island. The island can be accessed by and contains a 1.7 mile segment of the greatly popular Billy Goat Trail. This short trail has an ever-growing number of user-created trails that are threatening the diverse ecosystems of Bear Island.


  • 562 People Educated
  • 60 Rare Plant and Animal Species Protected
  • 50 Volunteer Man Hours

During the week, Leave No Trace hosted seven workshops focused on teaching participants how to effectively communicate minimum impact practices in a way that would change visitor behavior and help to protect the delicate ecosystem on Bear Island. Participants in these workshops included C&O Canal park staff, NPS staff from other parks in the Maryland, Virginia and the DC area parks and volunteers from various NPS volunteer organizations. Many of the participants work or volunteer in urban areas and were unfamiliar with Leave No Trace and the value minimum impact education can have in protecting urban parks. One of the key groups of participants in these workshops were the Billy Goat Trail Stewards. The volunteers come in the most contact with hikers on the trail. This training provided this group with new tools for visitor contacts that will positively influence behavior and will be more effective than the enforcement strategies they had previously been using.

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