Ditches as Public Amenities: Then

Ditches as Public Amenities: Then

In 1907 Boulder's citizens convinced Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the foremost landscape architect of his time, to come out to Boulder and tell them how to improve their town. Olmsted spent 8 days in Boulder and fell in love with the town's irrigation ditches.

Olmstead published a 106 page report, outlining his recommendations. 8 pages of his report were devoted to ditches. He believed that Boulder's ditches provided a unique opportunity for civic improvement and beautification.

"If the inherent beauty of the water of the irrigating channels were supplemented by such treatment as would bring out and enhance the natural associations of refreshment and abundance that are inseparable from them and would re-enforce their intrinsic charm, these channels alone would serve to make Boulder a place of high civic beauty." --Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 1910

Olmstead's suggested improvements included

  • a shaded walk overlooking downtown Boulder along Farmers' Ditch

  • plantings, benches and walkways along ditches

  • a promenade along the Boulder & White Rock Ditch from Broadway to 19th Street

  • a cross-town boulevard along the Beasley Ditch from Folsom toward Valmont (town).

In the last century, Boulder has addressed only one of Olmsted's plans: a bike path along two blocks of the Boulder & White Rock Ditch. However, further out of town, Greenways trails now follow the Wellman Canal, and portions of Farmers and Boulder & White Rock Ditches.

Above: Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., Landscape Architect and a section of his map of Boulder, showing a proposed boulevard along the Boulder & White Rock Ditch, from Folsom to 47th Street. Map courtesy of Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO.  Photo courtesy of City of Boulder Landmarks Department.

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