Here’s your chance to be a visionary, just like the Denver pioneers who dreamed of bringing water to the dry plains of Denver after the Gold Rush of 1859.
That earlier vision produced the High Line Canal, a 71-mile irrigation ditch built in 1883 that begins at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and ends on the plains northeast of Denver.
Today, the canal and its trails are one of Denver’s most cherished recreational assets, even as its use as a water delivery system has given way to new technologies and homes instead of farms.
The evolution of the canal is why Denver Water is teaming up with the High Line Canal Conservancy to develop a master plan.
You can share your ideas about the future of the historic canal and its greenway at three community open houses held Oct. 19 and 20, sponsored by the Conservancy.
“We’re looking for blue-sky ideas,” said Harriet Crittenden LeMair, the Conservancy’s executive director. “We want the public to think broadly, think creatively, and help us come up with a vision that preserves, protects and enhances the canal.”
People who use the High Line Canal should take advantage of this opportunity, added Tom Roode, Denver Water director of Operations and Maintenance. “We want the public to weigh in and say what they want the canal and the corridor to look like in the future.”
Creating a long-term vision for the canal is no easy task.
Denver Water purchased the canal in 1924 and still uses it today to transport un-treated water to about 70 customers. Instead of supporting farms and ranches, customers today use the water for landscaping and irrigation needs.
While the canal was considered an engineering marvel in 1883, it’s no longer an efficient means of delivering water. About 70 percent of the water sent down the canal seeps into the ground before it makes it to customers.
“Denver Water’s mission is to deliver water to our customers in an environmentally efficient way and that applies to how we manger the canal,” Roode said. “We have to assess how we use the canal in the future while taking into account our customers and its important role in the community.”
Water delivery, trail maintenance, developing new uses and creating a sustainable greenway are all part of the discussion for Denver Water, the Conservancy, the public and the 11 communities that border the canal.
“We’re in the visioning process and the sky’s the limit,” Crittenden LaMair said. “It’s only with input from the public that we can truly reflect the needs of all the communities along the canal.”
Find out more about the High Line Canal Conservancy at highlinecanal.org.