Protecting our Agricultural Land and Water: Updating the Rozich Ditch


Since 1998 the Land Trust has owned the Robinson Parcel that provides a natural separation between the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. This property contains notable wetlands and wildlife habitat, as well as beautiful upland hay meadows that continue to be maintained today by the Rozman family. This land has been in Rudy Rozman’s family for generations and was originally homesteaded by his grandfather in the late 1800’s when he came over from Croatia.

Rudy and Louis Rozman, the 2018 Land Trust volunteers of the year, have been working hard to take care of these verdant meadows through a regimented process of irrigation, haying, and grazing. To ensure that the land is properly irrigated, Rudy maintains the Rozich ditch that transports water nearly a mile from Washington Gulch to the Robinson hay meadows. This ditch has been in continuous use since it was built by Rudy’s step-grandfather in the early 1900s. The majority of the water from this ditch feeds the Robinson parcel and requires a significant amount of Rudy’s time and energy to maintain. A day of ditch maintenance includes removing rocks and debris from the main canal, mending any damaged sidewalls, ensuring the ditch maintains a 2% slope for ideal water transport, and repairing the ditch’s integrity. Across the Gunnison Valley and Colorado, much of the maintenance knowledge of ditches like the Rozich ditch has been passed down from generation to generation in ranching families.

However, over the years, the regular diversion of water back into Washington Gulch has taken its toll on the canal. Heavy water runoff from Washington Gulch often flows past the headgate used to close the ditch when not in use, undermining the integrity of the ditch. The overflow is damaging the current diversion structure and entrenching the ditch further making it incredibly hard to maintain the 2% slope necessary for the transport of water.

This spring, together, Rudy and the Land Trust, plan to upgrade the handbuilt stone diversion structure by installing a welded headgate with a culvert at the troublesome location. The headgate will reinforce the sidewall replacing the current rock structure with metal allowing for easy manual control over the water flow and protecting the integrity of the ditch. This will make it easy for Rudy to irrigate the Robinson parcel quickly by precisely controlling the water flow of the ditch. When he has used up the allotted water rights, he easily can divert the water back into Washington Gulch. This new structure will require significantly less annual maintenance to maintain and will improve the condition of the ditch. 

We are incredibly thankful for all the work Rudy has done on this ditch and the institutional knowledge he brings to the project. We look forward to making these improvements for Rudy’s continued care of the Robinson hay meadows.This is just one example of your support being put to use to help complete the many stewardship projects that the Land Trust invests in each summer to make sure we are caring for our protected lands.