Big Ditch Mitch Mitchell considered ‘visionary’


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For years dating back to the 1800’s large parts of Wichita flooded.

The Big Ditch solved much of the problem.

“We owe much debt to Mitch,” said Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell. “Much gratitude for pushing and seeing this project to fruition.”

Mayor Longwell led the ceremony on Wednesday to give the Big Ditch a new name. It is now officially named the M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell Floodway.

And it took an act of congress to make it happen, since the floodway is federal land through the Army Corp of Engineers.

“This is proof that sometimes Congress can get something right,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kansas. “I was happy to work with Representative Ron Estes to make this happen in the Senate as well.”

Mitchell’s widow, Pat, was awarded a plaque with the new name and a Presidential signature to recognize the name change.

“Oh it’s great. Really great. He deserves it. Mitch deserves it,” said Pat on Wednesday in west Wichita near the Mitchell Floodway.

1904 flood (Courtesy: Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum)

Mitch Mitchell began with the city in the 70’s and current Public Works Deputy Director Joe Pajor knew Mitchell well in later years.

“He was absolutely the person that could take the vision of the project and what it could be and work on the ground to actually realize that,” said Pajor. “While he was philosophical for sure, he was also an extremely practical person that realized that talk was not going to build the project.”

An engineering major in college at WSU, Mitchell got an idea and a plan from a similar flood control project in California.

“His tireless work is now being recognized for everyone to see,” said U.S. Representative Ron Estes, R-Kansas. “This recognition is much needed.”

Pajor points out that much of Wichita flooded for years.

“Downtown. The Twin Lakes area. It was common for city streets to be flooded with water,” said Pajor. “The floodway allowed for city streets to stay dry, and it allowed for large portions of Wichita west of the floodway to be developed.”

“This is a good day to honor a vision and a man with a vision,” said Longwell.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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