It was none other than George Washington himself who expressed an early confidence in the idea of a canal system which could link the people and businesses of the Mid-Atlantic region. By the time the Civil War began, the Chesapeake and Ohio canal was operating between northwestern Maryland and Washington, D.C. The canal was an important transportation link well into the 20th century. Now, almost a century after its transportation duties came to an end, the canal's towpath is a popular recreational destination for hikers and bicyclists. All 185 miles of the towpath are open to the public, except for a washed out section near Williamsport, Maryland. The Big Slackwater section will be repaired by Cianbro Corporation between now and 2012, under the supervision of the National Park Service. On August 7, a groundbreaking ceremony commemorated the beginning of the project.