Wichita to consider renaming ‘Big Ditch’

COURTESY: Molly Brewer (KSNW)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Anyone who lives in or around the Wichita area probably knows what the “Big Ditch” is. What many people don’t know is that the formal name for the floodway is the “Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project.”

One Sedgwick County commissioner wants to change that name to honor someone he calls a Wichita legend.

“Anyone who knew “Mitch” Mitchell was impressed. I mean, he was just an icon,” said Jim Howell, Sedgwick County commissioner. “He was instrumental. If you know the history of the “Big Ditch,” back in the day when this was needed, was an idea, he was a huge advocate.”

M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell is the man behind the “Big Ditch.” For years, Mitchell served as the flood control and maintenance supervisor for the city-county Flood Control Office.

The Flood Control Project was his vision, including his work that involved the design, surveying, construction and maintenance of the project.

Mitchell passed away earlier this year and now, his former colleagues with the city and the county want to honor him.

Today, at Howell’s suggestion, a joint ordinance and resolution to rename the “Big Ditch” to the “M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell Floodway” will make its way to City Council where it was approved.

The proposed joint ordinance and resolution would be voted on at the County Commission meeting tomorrow before heading to Washington D.C.

“This is such an important part of our community and to recognize him when we mention this or talk about it, to me, it would just be very honoring to Mitch that he would have that recognition,” Howell said.

Wichita has a long history of flooding and as a result, the “Big Ditch” was designed to allow surplus water to flow away from the city.

The floodway is not completely flood-proof but the “Big Ditch” has saved the community billions of dollars over the years and has protected many homes and businesses from destruction, Howell said.

“I guess my idea was you know, frankly, one of the biggest things that he did in his lifetime, which we all appreciate, we all understand the importance of the floodway today, how important that is,” Howell said.

Some people believe the “Big Ditch” should be used recreationally, while others want to disagree, fearing that would leave it vulnerable to damage.

“We do spend millions of dollars each year maintaining infrastructure and inspecting and certifying that floodway and so part of me says it would be nice for people to use it. I understand that argument,” Howell said. “But I also am concerned about the reason that it exists. We don’t want to jeopardize people’s safety or their property by enjoying that piece of infrastructure and causing some type of damage that would put us all at risk.”

The decision for the floodway’s use may be up in the air, but Howell knows one thing for sure; he wants to honor the man behind it, M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell.

COURTESY: The Wichita Eagle

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