Letter to the editor: The citizens of La Jara vs. Richfield canal

Nuthin’ much happens here in small town La Jara, south of Moosie, but there’s settin’ something to happen pretty quick, I suspect.

Well, let’s talk about it. About 10 days ago, give or take, a local attorney, hired by the Richfield Canal Assoc. sent some rather startling letters to neighbors, to around 15 or so residents along the Ol’ Richfield canal alongside the east end of town. The residents along the ditch have 30 days to respond and set up a meet with him and the president of the Richfield canal about the matter that I’m about to write.

The subject is the old easement right of the canal that goes back to 1885. Now, that’s a long time folks, ancient by modern standards. Well, the attorney dug up the ol’ rules of the easement and found that this easement has this “proviso” that states that from the middle of the ditch 50 feet from the center, both directions, east and west, the ditch riders can traffic through it to clean it up on occasion when the ditch needs cleaning. The old-time property owners along the ditch never paid any attention to that 50 foot easement on each side of the ditch, and for decades to the present, most structures line up 20 to 25 feet next to the ditch canal, and the canal association said nothing about it. No big deal!

I’ve lived alongside the ditch for most of my 66 years. Clearing the weeds always seemed done one way or another, most of it in the early spring. So when the water starts to flow during watering season, and it flows usually in a good year for about five weeks dependin’ on winter snow up on the South San Juans, a bad year for about three weeks, maybe four weeks, then the ditch is dry ‘til the next year.

So the weeds gathered. In times past, startin’ in the 1920’s into the 1930’s, as the relatives have recalled, and people settled and put up fencing, and storage sheds and such near the Richfield canal, all they had to do was help the water users. When I was a kid we’d see the ditch riders burn the weeds in the spring when the snow was gone. Then later in 1960’s and 1970’s and onward the good Ol’ Fire Department assisted the ditch riders, and came along dousing the smoldering ashes, as the ditch riders burned through the length of the canal passin’ through La Jara. No big deal!

Just to cut the subject short, a few years ago The Town Board drew up this weed ordinance. Now the mayor and the board are picky about weeds in their backyard, so to speak, and gave out some warnings, then fines, I heard. That started the farmers complainin’, raggin’ and somebody in that group mentioned that seldom used word, “lawyer,” I supposed.

For the most part La Jara is quite the peaceful community, except for the drug usin’, and alcoholics, with docs dispensing all those opioid drugs in the Valley, and gettin’ more people hooked, and the local drug pushers pushin’ street poison. Now we get this warning letter from the ditch canal association, by their lawyer.

Now, here’s where it gets interestin’ folks! Just this past week this petite of a woman takes time off from work, busy young gal, supportin’ her family, drives up to Moosie, and walks into the attorney’s office and meets with him and the pres’ of the Richfield canal. This undaunted young lady sits down and listens to their complaint.

“Look Miss so and so, your property sits along that canal, and you’re violatin’ this easement. You have a fence alongside that canal and a two-car garage, and you have to remove it immediately or else!” the attorney tells her in his authoritative manner.

Well, so happens this fence and garage have been sittin’ right there alongside that ditch for about 50 years or so, and the ditch association never complained to previous owners, or to this young lady about this issue, ‘til now. Just for the record, like I mentioned before, many structures sit next to this canal, and have for many, many years.

Well, this young lady didn’t say much while the sharp-tongued attorney verbally assailed her. The pres’ of the canal listened while keeping his head bent to the floor, staring. The attorney finished.

As I’m being told all this, this kind and gentle lady stood up and said in so many words, “I’m doin’ no such thing. That’s my property and your ditch water is all you can push through it. Look at all the other properties along this ditch! What are you talkin’ about? You think these people are dumb or something!” she stated, frustrated.

“Well, then,” the attorney replied. “You have three options, one, you remove those structures along that ditch, two, the pres’ goes in there and removes those structures, and you pay for removal, or three, we take you to court, and in court we win, and you pay for everything, and I always win these cases!”

As I hear the story told to me, this petite lady stands up and says, “We go to court then.” Adding, “What about that remodeled school north of my property, and its garages? It sits near the ditch canal. What are you gonna do about that?”

Well now my interest has peaked! There’s a school property involved in all this, a remodeled Alternative School a few feet from the canal. Wow, now there’s a story in there somewhere, I thought to myself.

The attorney stutters for a moment, “We will handle that later!”

Well folks that’s just a taste of the donnybrook set to begin in the quiet, little town of La Jara. Stay tuned for the fireworks!

Adelmo R. Romero

Concerned citizen alongside

the Richfield Canal


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