From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):
Built in the 1880s, the 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.
But buffing it up is seen as good for tourism and also for preserving history.
When driving through towns while on vacation, people look for pullouts featuring historic landmarks, interpretive sites and viewpoints.
The McElmo Flume, off of U.S. Highway 160 near the fairgrounds, has that potential. The Colorado Department of Transportation sees its value.
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 and may go in next summer. Stone walls, education panels and an informational kiosk also will be built.
“But as it is right now when people walk to the overlook it is not much too look at, so we are seeking funding to restore and stabilize this piece of local history long term,” said Linda Towle, a historic site advocate and volunteer. “It reverted back to county ownership, so they must be the grant applicant for the restoration.”
The county agreed on Monday, Sept. 16 to chip in $2,500 toward the renovation. The grant-application deadline for the $122,700 to repair the foundation and steel supports is Oct. 1.
Giving visitors a chance to slow down, pull over and learn of the region’s innovative past is good for tourism and shows respect for previous generations, Towle said.
“It was the first water source to Towaoc, and shows a lot of ingenuity. It needs stabilization or it will fall over,” she said. “Everyone wants the top fixed, but we have to fix the bottom structure first so it will stay standing permanently.”