To prevent losing a key restoration grant for the historic McElmo Flume, Montezuma County commissioners agreed to loan $8,000 toward a required match.
In November, the Colorado Historical Society awarded the county a $181,000 grant to restore the wooden trough portion of the flume, which spans McElmo Creek near the fairgrounds.
A $60,000 match was required, but by the May deadline, flume boosters came up $8,000 short.
“We’ve come too far to let this go,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel on approval of the loan.
With the grant secure, organizers continue to fundraise, and have so far brought in $55,650 toward the match.
The 130-year-old McElmo Flume is the last of 104 flumes used by the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. to span canyons, streams and arroyos. The structures were part of an irrigation ditch system that delivered water to area farms and the Ute Mountain Tribe from 1888 to 1992.
“The next step is a request for proposals to restore the wooden trough to its former glory, with work to begin this summer,” she said. “The flume is the only one left of 104, and represents our water-development history.”
This is the fourth state historical grant awarded for the project. Two grants totaling $24,000 were awarded to conduct engineering assessment, and $160,000 grant was awarded to stabilize and upgrade the foundation, which has been completed.
Community sponsors raised $100,000 and helped with the project, including from private individuals, the county, Southwest Colorado Water Conservancy District, Southwest Roundtable, Ballantine Family Fund, CDOT, Federal Highways Administration, Mesa Verde Country, Montezuma County Historical Society and Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.
A paved highway pullout, parking lot, interpretive panels, information kiosk, sidewalk and flume overlook were installed last year, and were made possible by $250,000 in funding allocated by the National Scenic Byways Program in 2013.
Towle emphasized that the state historic grant money is derived from gambling revenues from casinos in the state, not from tax dollars.
“Ten percent of gambling monies go toward historic preservation, and cannot be used for anything else,” she said. “We are thrilled to repair the portion of the flume that is most visible to the public. Just like any historic preservation project, it takes longer and cost more than you think at first.”
To help Save the McElmo Flume, go to www.trailsoftheancients.com and click on the donate icon.