Zanja Trail and Greenway project

Water flows in the Mill Creek Zanja periodically, as in this scene at the
Paine Ranch

It's just a ditch.  To long-time Redlanders, it's the "Sankee."  To relative new-comers, those living here for 20 years or less, it's the "Zanja," the Indian word for ditch.  This twelve-mile long irrigation ditch has inspired passion and fueled disputes over its almost 200-year history. Today, it is the focus of a devoted committee which works to preserve it as a symbol of human ingenuity and a simpler, quieter life in Redlands. 

The Redlands Conservancy's Save the Zanja Committee hopes to develop a natural-surface trail and greenway along or near the historic Zanja, from Ninth Street in downtown Redlands east to Mentone. 
Once created, the Zanja Trail and Greenway will connect Redlands' residents and visitors with the future Orange Blossom Trail, the Crafton Hills Trails, and the Santa Ana River Trail.  It will provide a tantalizing experience for all users through the very essence of Redlands' heritage: the magnificent citrus groves, the University of Redlands, and the tree-lined streets that meander through the fine historic homes of northeast Redlands.

The historic Mill Creek Zanja is bordered by many historic artifacts, like this stone reservoir.

Project Description: 
The Zanja Trail and Greenway will be a natural-surface trail along or near the historic Mill Creek Zanja.  It will incorporate educational and environmental signage at appropriate locations to call attention to the historic, cultural, and biological significance of the entire setting.  The trail will include up to six pocket parks where users may rest or picnic.  Users will be able to park at various locations along the route, including Sylvan Park, Crafton School, and Redlands East Valley High School.  The Zanja Trail and Greenway will be maintained by a sub-committee of the Redlands Conservancy, and will be owned by the City of Redlands.  Trail construction, signage, amenities, and pocket parks will be funded through grants and private donations.  It will be open to the public from dawn to dusk, like all Redlands' parks. 

The Redlands Conservancy has been working with the University of Redlands, City of Redlands, County of San Bernardino, Inland Empire Resource Conservation District, Save Our History Grant from the History Channel, San Manual Band of Mission Indians, Esri, and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. 

The Mill Creek Zanja flows through the Redlands Conservancy site next to the Paine Ranch.

The Redlands Conservancy will plan, design, and create a four-and-a-half mile long trail and greenway along or near the historic Mill Creek Zanja to celebrate the long heritage of the Redlands area and to provide a healthful and inspiring environment for Redlanders and visitors to enjoy.

Dug in the summer of 1819 by Serrano Indians to bring water to their land in present-day Loma Linda, the Mill Creek Zanja channeled water from nearby Mill Creek through a clever system of hand-made ditches and areas of natural flows.  The liquid gold served the San Gabriel Mission outpost near the Indian villages, and all land parcels in between, thus setting the stage for Redlands to eventually become the region's agricultural star.

Throughout the 1800s, the ditch provided water for agriculture and household needs, and it was used to power a furniture factory and a generator.  It was the subject of several lawsuits and was managed by individuals called "zanjeros." 

Portions of the Zanja are lined with stone, probably from the early 1900s.

By the 1920s, the City of Redlands had bought the water rights from users on the west end of the ditch, and covered over most of that reach.  The ditch from Mentone into downtown Redlands, however, continues to exist.  In the 1930s, it received No. 43 on the State Historic Landmarks list, and in the 1970s, when the County Flood Control District proposed to channelize the ditch through Redlands, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Today, the Zanja carries "nuisance" water and storm water runoff from the east side of Greenspot through the Crafton Groves, past the University of Redlands and Sylvan Park into the downtown, moving through private and public property.  It remains in various states of repair and disrepair.

The Save the Zanja Committee, with the assistance of a consultant from the National Park Service, will first create a master plan which will propose the concept in a format that can be adopted by the City of Redlands.  With the plan adopted, the Committee will seek private and public funds to purchase easements or property, conduct the design and engineering for trail construction, landscape, and road crossings, and begin the construction process in phases, in time to open the Zanja Trail and Greenway in 2019.  The Committee will also work to obtain the local historic resource designation.

The eastern end of the Mill Creek Zanja, in Mentone, has many pristine sites.

Projected Costs: 
Design and engineering: $100,000;
Studies for CEQA compliance: $70,000;
Trail construction @ $10/linear foot: $236,700;
Landscaping and infrastructure: unknown;
Lighting: unknown;
Land/easement acquisition: unknown;
Maintenance fund: $100,000

Projected Completion Date:
June, 2019; Phases opened sooner.




The Save the Zanja Committee met with former Police Chief Jim Bueermann to discuss safety concerns along the proposed route of the Zanja Trail and Greenway.


The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians provided funds to manufacture and install history markers along the route of the Mill Creek Zanja.
The Mill Creek Zanja logo.

Conservancy Receives Save Our History Grant From HISTORY™

Special License Plate Frames for Redlands now available Redlands License Plate Frame