The Kern Island Canal was constructed in the mid-1800's to serve as flood control, preventing the flooding of the area now known as downtown Bakersfield. In the late 1800's it was excavated in its current location to be used as an irrigation canal. Originally there were two canals - the Upper and Lower Kern Island Canals which ran parallel to each other. The Lower canal is where the canal flows today. The Upper canal was located to the east of the Lower and was used to power a mill wheel on a flour mill between 17th Street and Truxtun Avenue before it flowed into the Lower canal. The historic mill is the reason the park was named "Mill Creek".
The picture to the left, taken in 2003, is looking at the original bridge in Central Park. The current Mill Creek Bridge was replaced this bridge.
Meyer Civil Engineering, Inc. was awarded contracts by the City of Bakersfield to develop designs, plans, construction documents, and provide construction assistance through the process of this downtown beautification project. The Kern Island Canal was altered over this 1.5 mile section to provide the citizens of Bakersfield with a jewel in the midst of the downtown area. While the main channel of the canal is still deep, most of the banks were expanded to include a shallow "shelf" giving the canal a wider appearance and meandering quality. Since this is a working canal, safety railing and warning signs were added along the canal's perimeter to discourage public entry.
The focus of this project was to utilize the Kern River Island Canal running through downtown Bakersfield as an impetus to bring a valuable resource, water, to the landscape of the downtown area. The change is astounding! With new landscaping, walking and biking paths, amenities, points of interest, and redesign utilizing the canal as its backdrop, this project has shown that updates and improvements to the city's infrastructure can become a beautiful addition benefiting all the city's residents and visitors.