Evergreen: Popular fishing holes need to shore up water rights

Buchanan Pond, Evergreen via EvergreenBound.com
Buchanan Pond, Evergreen via EvergreenBound.com

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

The two ponds beside Buchanan Rec Center are stocked with trout and are popular among Evergreen residents and visitors who like to try their luck fishing.

The source of water for the ponds is Troublesome Creek, a tributary of Bear Creek that flows under the Highway 74 overpass near the property in Bergen Park.

Since Buchanan Park was developed in the early 2000s, maintaining water for these small lakes has not been a significant issue.

However, the Colorado Division of Water Resources recently informed the Evergreen Park and Recreation District of a potential problem concerning water rights for the Buchanan ponds, said Ellen O’Connor, EPRD executive director.

“We have learned the ponds were originally part of the Village at Soda Creek Lake development,” O’Connor said. “The original water rights were pretty robust and included storage, irrigation and augmentation.”

However, it is unclear as to whether the park district acquired those water rights when the property was purchased for Buchanan Park in December 1994.

“We’re trying to make them aware of the issue,” said David Nettles, an engineer with division one of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “Someone could seek water rights from the ponds.”

“From looking at what I have, I don’t see any water rights,” Nettles remarked.

The park district would be notified if someone filed a claim for water rights at the Buchanan ponds, he added.

There are two inactive cases on file with the state water court regarding water rights for the Village at Soda Creek development. In the early 1980s applications were filed by Gayno Inc. and George Alan Holley to acquire water rights for the planned project. Those rights were tied to an original decree dating from 1884 for the Lewis and Strouse Ditch.

It’s possible that the rights were subsequently abandoned because of a failure on the part of the previous owners to file a required diligence report with the state, Nettles said.

To address the issue, EPRD has formed a two-member subcommittee. Board members John Ellis and Peg Linn are researching the matter and are expected to report to the board on their findings. O’Connor also has been conferring with Tim Buckley, the water commissioner serving the district for Evergreen…

Historic water issues at Buchanan Park

When Thomas Bergen, founder of Bergen Park, acquired his homestead from the federal government in 1875, water rights for the property were not a given.

The homestead certificate, which bears the signature of President Ulysses Grant, gave Bergen and his heirs an 80-acre tract of land, subject to “any vested and accrued water rights for mining … and rights to ditches as reservoirs used in connection with such water rights, as may be recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, laws and decisions of the courts.”

The Evergreen Park and Recreation District purchased two parcels of this historic property from the Fahnenstiel family in 2006 as part of a bond issue. This property is now part of Buchanan Park and the site of the Evergreen community garden, which is served by water taps provided by the Evergreen Metropolitan District.

A final note: While it is impressive to see, the authenticity of the signature of President Grant on the 1875 homestead certificate for Bergen is questionable. According to historical research, secretaries copied presidents’ signatures onto these documents after being authorized to sign them as proxies by President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

More water law coverage here.

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