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To the Editor,

Shareholders of the Sunnyside Park Ditch wish to thank the Chaffee County community and beyond for support provided to fix serious maintenance issues on our 130-year-old ditch that is essential for ranchers to irrigate their fields and stay in business.

The water is used for flood and sprinkler irrigation of fields on both sides of Highway 291 north of Salida. The fields also are clearly visible from the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway along Highway 285. Without irrigation, this nearly 800-acre area would no longer be as scenic and could quickly be developed.

Ditch maintenance is critically important to keep irrigation ditches functional. Photo courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy.

Many of the ditches in the Arkansas Valley were dug by hand in the late 1800s to transport water for agricultural use. They are the arteries of our beautiful rural landscapes.

An assessment of the Sunnyside Ditch showed it in jeopardy of serious and costly blow-outs due to water leakage from its walls. Access to patch holes and complete other necessary maintenance became increasingly difficult as more homes were built along the ditch. Our project installed pipe to move the ditch underground and solve these growing challenges.

A huge thank you goes to Chaffee Common Ground for supplying seed funding that allowed the project to begin. Thanks also to the USDA National Resources Conservation Service, which invested in a large portion of the project.

Funding also came from the Colorado State Water Conservation Board Water Reserve Fund, Colorado State Conservation Board and Colorado Cattlemen’s Ag Water NetWORK. In-kind services from the Upper Arkansas Conservation District and Central Colorado Conservancy also are greatly appreciated.

We would also like to thank neighbors along the portion of the ditch where construction took place as well as our contractor, HT Construction.

Our valley lost some ditches over the years as they were abandoned due to insurmountable maintenance problems. With grants and community support, we can help keep the water flowing that is vital to the ranching sector and an integral part of our local history, tourism, economy, water, lifestyles and culture.

With sincere thanks,
Sunnyside Ditch Shareholders