Politics & Government

Commissioner suggests renaming Big Ditch after M.S. Mitchell

A Sedgwick County commissioner has proposed renaming the Wichita-Valley Center Floodway, also known as the Big Ditch, after M.S. Mitchell, the man who designed it and surveyed its creation.
A Sedgwick County commissioner has proposed renaming the Wichita-Valley Center Floodway, also known as the Big Ditch, after M.S. Mitchell, the man who designed it and surveyed its creation. File photo

A Sedgwick County commissioner wants the Big Ditch to be renamed after the man who designed it and surveyed its creation — M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell.

And the county will soon publish parts of a lengthy interview with Mitchell that was recorded several months before he died this past Saturday.

Mitchell was the former chairman of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and Stormwater Management Advisory Board.

Commissioner Jim Howell said the formal name of the Big Ditch project, the Wichita-Valley Center Floodway, is “pretty clunky.”

“The formal name is too long and nobody remembers it,” Howell said Wednesday. “If we had a nice name like the Mitch Mitchell Floodway, he would be remembered for his personal investment.”

Howell also said the informal Big Ditch name does not “sound like a positive term.” He said he wants to honor Mitchell’s legacy properly.

“It took someone with his veracity to make this happen,” Howell said. “He was a tremendous warrior for the solution that he knew would work.”

Kate Flavin, county public information officer, said the county staff will see if there’s support from a majority of commissioners before reaching out to the city of Wichita about a potential name change for the floodway.

Sedgwick County also recorded a lengthy interview of Mitchell about his life and the Big Ditch, staff members said this week.

Deputy County Manager Tom Golden said it began with a discussion with Mitchell in the office of former Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

“The more he (Mitchell) spoke, I just realized that this guy is a walking history book,” Golden said. “He’s got the historical and empirical knowledge that nobody else has.”

Golden approached the county’s communications staff about recording Mitchell talking about his life and the floodway.

Mitchell was interviewed by Assistant County Counselor Misha Jacob-Warren and stormwater engineer Scott Lindebak in a county public works building in early December.

“I’m really glad that happened,” Public Works Director David Spears said. “We have been able now to preserve a piece of history for this community.”

Flavin said staff members are editing the video and hope to publish it by the end of the week.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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