Water board chips in for McElmo Flume

Montezuma County applies for grant to restore foundation of historical site

The McElmo Flume restoration project gained some traction recently when the Southwestern Water Conservation District board agreed to contribute $15,000 in matching funds pending approval of a grant.

Montezuma County has applied for a $122,700 grant from the Colorado State Historic Fund to repair the flume’s foundation.

If approved in February, a 25 percent match of $41,000 is required by May.

The county has agreed to pitch in $2,500 toward the match if awarded the funds.

“We’re looking for another $24,000 in matching funds if the grant is approved,” said Linda Towle, a historic-site advocate and volunteer. “We will continue our fundraising efforts.”

Built in the 1880s, the wooden flume was a marvel of engineering, delivering water to Towaoc and area ranches. It operated until 1992 but was replaced by the concrete canals of the McPhee Project and has since fallen into disrepair.

The money would go to stabilizing the foundation and steel support structure.

“The wooden part is what everyone notices, but nothing matters if the structure is not properly stabilized,” Towle said. “Then we can focus on restoring the rest of this unique piece of our history.”

Interpretive panels would explain the flume and surrounding history. Information about local attractions such as the shooting range, fairgrounds, race track, and Phil’s World biking trails will be included as well.

Preserving the structure is just part of a larger plan for the site, located off Highway 160 near the fairgrounds.

CDOT has committed to constructing a paved pullout and parking lot at the flume. The $250,000 project is being paid for by the National Scenic Byway Program as part of the Trails of the Ancients tourism loop. The interpretive site will feature a sidewalk to a viewpoint overlooking the flume. Stone walls, education panels, and an information kiosk are also in the plans.

“If we are fortunate to be awarded the state historic grant, it will help the CDOT project move forward,” Towle said. “We will be meeting with officials this month and hope work on the pull-out overlook can begin in 2014.”

The flume’s decrepit state qualifies if as one of Colorado’s most endangered places, making it a good candidate for grants. And the pullout is in an ideal location for visitors traveling between Cortez and Mesa Verde National Park.