Tim Thomas has been active with the Cumberland Bike Patrol since 2000, logging close to 800 patrol hours. Tim arranged for free CPR training for the Bike Patrol for many years through the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad and presented weather safety and preparedness training for the group. Each year Tim assists with the Alice Ferguson Foundation Potomac River Clean-up at Candoc, last year serving as the site leader. After retiring after 36 years with the Allegany County 911 Joint Communications Center, Tim now works part-time with our partner agency, Allegany County Tourism, at the Cumberland Visitor Center.

Tim agreed to meet for a brief interview to share his volunteer experiences at the Canal.

How did you join the C&O Canal VIP program?

I saw an article in the newspaper announcing the volunteer bike patrol program at the C&O Canal and I thought it sounded like fun. I always had an interest in park. I grew up in the area and as a boy scout hiked the towpath from Cumberland to Hancock. Volunteering at the canal fills the void from my days in the boy scouts.

Favorite aspect about volunteering in the C&O Canal Bike Patrol?

I enjoy the physical fitness, the flexible schedule, and most of all; giving back to the park and the community. It’s great to interact with the people any way I can as a volunteer whether it is helping people who may be in need of first aid, picking up trash, clearing debris on the towpath, or protecting our visitors from large snakes, I enjoy it all. 

Have you ever had to respond to an emergency situation?

Oddly enough working in the field, (911 call center) for 36 years. I never came across an emergency requiring anything more than a band-aid. 

What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen on the Canal?

One day when I was on patrol and I spotted two people with metal detectors digging around lockhouse 75 yard. I must have been a quarter mile away watching from the towpath and it looked very suspicious. I continued to monitor the situation and the suspects then got down into the lock and they were physically removing artifacts from the ruins. I immediately got on the radio and called the Law Enforcement Rangers. A little while later a ranger arrived and ambushed the robbers. It turned out that one of the perpetrators was wanted in Bedford County!

On another occasion a large snake was sprawled out across the towpath and frightened some visitors. A friend of mine who was on the fire department in LaVale and I removed the snake from the towpath.

If you had a time machine where would you go in C&O Canal history? 

I’d like to be able to go back in the canal’s heyday. It would be extremely fascinating to witness the how the boats loaded with 120 tons of coal, lumber, grain and other agricultural products were transported to market. I marvel at the fact that they had to build the canal with pick and shovel, horses, wheelbarrows. To build it as well as they did and make the Paw Paw tunnel is truly amazing!

For more information on the bike patrol program in Cumberland contact Ranger Rita Knox at Rita_Knox@nps.gov or visit our volunteers-in-parks website www.chohvip.org