Established: June 6 1885
Priority Number: 35
Acres under ditch: 22100 originally
Water Source: South Boulder Creek
"Lying between Denver and Greeley is an extent of choice farm land of over 200,000 acres, adapted to general farming, market gardening or fruit culture. This land is now much of it arid and unproductive, needing only the application of water to make it produce bountifully. Large crops of sugar beets, alfalfa, wheat, oats, tomatoes, cantaloupes and fruit can be raised wherever reservoir water is obtainable." (1907) (Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library Western Archives Collection.)
This was the rationale for a 1902 purchase of the Community Canal from the original owners, the Charles Toll family. This purchase involving a number of land development companies over the years was made with an eye to turning a substantial profit. Sadly for the investors, this was not the case. Their speculative assumptions were trumped by a lack of expertise and a lack of funds. Many years later, after numerous bankruptcies and reorganizations, a consortium of farmers and investors called FRICO developed a better business model consisting of private/public partnerships designed to maintain and grow the water portfolio.
These early investors, using South Boulder Creek as a water source, made improvements to Coal Creek ditch and Community Canal and to the entrance and outlet of Marshall Lake which both ditches were designed to fill. Early investors knew that 'stored water is stored wealth' and that reservoirs could provide critical irrigation needs later in the season when creeks and ditches had dried up. Coal Creek ditch has since been abandoned, but South Boulder Creek continues to supply water to Marshall Lake today via the Community Canal. From there the water is delivered to the towns of Louisville, Superior and Broomfield, and to individual shareholders all the way to Frederick.
Above: Workers dig a tunnel for the Community Canal. Photo courtesy of FRICO.
Today the Community Canal is a very small part of a much larger FRICO irrigation system, accounting for only 6 percent of the total 8,000 shares in FRICO. The whole FRICO system serves municipal and agricultural needs in Louisville, Broomfield, Superior, Northglen, Thornton, South Adams County, Brighton, East Cherry Creek Valley, and the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks.
Map courtesy of FRICO.