California Town Digs for Ideas to Preserve Historic Ditch

Posted on: January 8th, 2008 by Margaret Foster

ZanjaIn California, where water is king, an irrigation ditch can have more historic clout than Plymouth Rock.

A Southern California group wants to create parkland around a historic 12-mile-long ditch, built in 1819 in Redlands, Calif.

Located in San Bernardino County, the Zanja, which is Spanish for ditch, delivered water to the local Spanish mission, San Bernardino Asistencia; it has been a flood-control channel for the past 80 years.

A third of the trench has already been cemented over and erased by apartment buildings and other development, so now is the time to act, says Sherli Leonard, executive director of the Redlands Conservancy, which will welcome the public's ideas in a Jan. 28 meeting.

"It's so important to the history of this community that we feel we ought to do something about it," Leonard says.

Last year, the city bristled at plans for an apartment building that would have taken down trees and redirect part of the Zanja, which has been listed on the National Register since 1977.

To create an eight-mile-long park with a trail, interpretive signs, and parks the Redlands Conservancy wants to buy and place easements on the privately owned sections of the Zanja, Leonard says. It also plans list the entire stretch on the local register, which offers more protection than the state and National Register.

"We'd have to find foundations or agencies that would support this project," Leonard says. "I'm really hoping we can get it all done by 2019. We're in the very early stages."

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