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Asher Merkley1918

1918- Asher Merkley holds fish caught at Central Canal  (Kids Canal)

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1957 - Planting fish in Kids Canal

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1960 - Leanard Dean holding fish caught from Kids Canal


1970 - Local kids fishing at Kids Canal


2022 - Local kid floating down Kids Canal


Compiled by current and emeritus historians of the Uintah County Regional History Center

Nelson Merkley, homesteader of the Ashley Valley, plowed the furrow for the Ashley Central Canal directly in front of his land in 1879. When they told him it would not run that way, he said it has to as he needed the water. He was the water master of the Central Canal and even worked all day to fix a break in the canal on the day of his marriage.


The Ashley Central Irrigation Company was formed by stockholders in the canal. Over the years the group helped to keep the canal clean and free of dead brush, trees and debris.


Asher Merkley, Nelson Jr’s son, inherited the farm property of 120 acres upon Nelson Jr’s death. This is the property that is on the eastside of 1500 West and the home of the Ahrnsbraks. Along the stretch that is
known as Kids Canal, there are two other properties that are on the same side as the Ahrnsbraks.


As early as 1916, pictures have documented that fishing that has taken place in the Ashley Central Canal (Kid’s Canal), which runs in front of the homes on the east side of the canal. Asher Merkley is shown with a good
size trout that was caught in the canal. Fishing was good in the canal in the early years. Asher’s children were the first to enjoy the canal as their swimming and fishing hole.

In 1953, the Fish and Game Commission of the State of Utah under Title 23, Session Laws of Utah 1953, the Canal was designated as fishing legal for children 13 and under. This was a two- and half-mile area for kids only to fish from June 6th to October 11th . Through the 1950s, the canal was stocked each year for kids to fish. Scouts were assigned to patrol the Canal to ensure only kids (under the age of 14), the aged, and those with disabilities were the ones fishing the Canal.

One account in the Vernal Express from 1958 reported that two hundred kids attended the opening day of fishing along the Canal. Due to the Canal being designated for kids-only fishing, it became known to most as “Kids Canal."

By the 1980s, the canal was being stocked four or five times a year with fish. However, fishing wasn’t the only thing that the kids enjoyed in the summer. It also was a way for kids to cool off from the summer heat.


Around 1991, the Canal was designated by the Division of Wildlife Resources as an area where youth could show their skills at fishing. However, due to safety concerns with the water, a Conservation Issues Committee of the Vernal Chamber of Commerce was formed to create a park along the Canal.

The county applied for a grant through the Utah Division of Parks, and the property owners along the section on the eastside agreed to donate 33 feet of frontage. The park was to have two to three bridges, walking, and bike trails.


In the Spring of 1992, the project was 99% ready to go. By July, the Vernal Express printed that Vernal’s first green belt was a reality. It was designed to be a walking, jogging, biking, fishing, as well as a picnic area. With the
help of community volunteers, the parkway work was underway.


June 1993, the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Asher Merkley Memorial Parkway took place. The parkway runs from the Ahrnsbrak’s residence south to Main Street. Asher Merkley’s children Kathleen McComber, Doug Merkley and Virginia Giles, along with B. Barney Tebbs donated property for the Kid’s Canal Parkway.


For over a hundred years, the canal has provided water for agriculture, entertainment for kids, and a cool walking trail for families to enjoy on hot summer days. It is also a place for everyone to enjoy nature with trees, flowers, and wildlife. Kid’s Canal has given back more than Nelson Jr. might have ever dream his canal would.


Many residents hope is that Kids Canal will continue to be what it has been for generations: a beautiful green belt for all to enjoy.

We're excited to gather stories of locals who've created memories here. Please share your memories of Kids Canal. 


Kids Canal has made headlines over the decades.

Enjoy photos and newspaper clippings from the past.

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You can help!

Local residents have been working hard to gather support for Kids Canal. 

You can help by sharing your stories and memories of Kids Canal.

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