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Woodbridge Irrigation District office considered as possible tourist attraction

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Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:16 am, Fri May 11, 2012.

Can an irrigation district's headquarters be a tourist attraction? Directors of the Woodbridge Irrigation District think so.

Imagine walking into the new district office to see a video of steelhead trout thrashing upstream. Or perusing a collection of historical artifacts from the era of the original Woodbridge dam. Maybe even wander into the office's backyard for a panoramic view of the Mokelumne River.

Longtime fisherman Mike Phillips of Lodi suggested opening the fish-viewing window at the Woodbridge Dam to the public, so everyday residents can sneak a peek at salmon or any of the 51 species of fish that call the Mokelumne River home.

That idea isn't possible, said Director Bill Stokes, because of the limited opportunities to see fish through the window and the insurance liability of inviting the public into a secure area.

But another idea did take off.

Phillips' suggestion spurred a discussion on other ways to show the public how the Mokelumne River influenced Woodbridge's creation and history.

"We were here before the first Cheerio box," said Stokes.

District manager Andy Christensen proposed streaming a live feed of the fish camera run by East Bay Municipal Utility District onto a screen in the new office, or replaying clips of salmon swimming by the camera.

Christensen has been culling research about the town online and plans to compile a few stories and brief history into a series of pamphlets to share with visitors from a small kiosk.

The office has a cabinet full of historical artifacts from early in Woodbridge's history, bordered by wood salvaged from the original Woodbridge dam built in 1891. That collection could be expanded with contributions from the community and other museum.

The office grounds border a scenic view of the river. Stokes proposed building a handicapped accessible dock for kayaks and pontoon boats to go back and forth from Woodbridge to Lodi Lake and elsewhere on the river.

"We have the facility. It's a perfect opportunity," he said. With any luck, the district will be able to connect with the Lodi Visitor's Center as well as the Chamber of Commerce for both towns for their input on what tourists might enjoy.

The ideas aren't set in stone, but the district plans to make their office a tourist stop by fall of this year.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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