Saturday, December 6, 2014

Castle Rock’s mini-incline

Posted By on Sat, Dec 6, 2014 at 7:36 AM

click to enlarge Looking up from the bottom of the Challenge Staircase at Philip S. Miller Park. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Looking up from the bottom of the Challenge Staircase at Philip S. Miller Park.

If you’re looking for someplace new for outdoor recreation — and want to see what can be done with a little creativity and public support — you need not go farther than Castle Rock.

The city of Castle Rock is building a multimillion-dollar park and recreation complex, and doing it without increasing taxes. The Philip S. Miller Park was identified in 2013 as the top priority for the city parks department, and as one of the top 5 items in the city’s budget planning. Done in stages, the entire project will likely cost around $30 million when completed.

The project is being built with money from the city’s general fund, park fees assessed on new construction, money shared from the Douglas County open space tax, Great Outdoors Colorado, Conservation Trust Fund, certificates of participation and other sources, according to Jeff Smullen of the Castle Rock Parks, Open Space and Trails department.

The complex features the Miller Activity Center; housing a lap pool, indoor turf field, a golf simulator — which can be used as a driving range or to play a round of golf with up to four people — a trampoline park and other amenities. Smullen calls the park a “legacy” project for the city, intended to serve the region for many years to come.

The park itself covers 230 acres of land that were unused prior to the project. It now has 7 miles of trails, a multi-use field and a miniature version of the Manitou Incline, which Smullen referred to as the Challenge Staircase. In the spring of 2015 there will be ziplines crisscrossing the park, and a “Head Rush” tower that will have a climbing wall with auto-belay devices. On the day I was there, workers were stringing the ziplines over the park. Smullen says there will be 10 ziplines in total, including two 1,500-foot side-by-side lines.

I tried the Staircase and hiked the trails on a recent visit to the park. With approximately 200 steps, the staircase is much shorter than the Manitou Incline, but don’t let that fool you — it’s quite steep and will raise your heartrate. It’s well made, with large timbers spaced perfectly so that on my climb, my footsteps consistently fell right on to a timber. It’s also wide enough to accommodate people going up and down simultaneously. At the top there’s a trail that will circle around back to the bottom, or as I did, around the entire park. The loop is approximately six miles, but there are side trails that can return you to the parking area without having to go all the way around.

Although admittance and most of the features of the park are free, the ziplines, “Head Rush” and many of the indoor features will require a fee to use in a public-private partnership with the city. But next time you’ve got some time for a short road trip, or when you’re passing through Castle Rock, visit this park and see what happens when a city commits itself to improving the quality of life for its citizens and is creative in how it funds it.

To get there, take I-25 north to the Plum Creek Parkway exit on the south end of Castle Rock. Go west for less than a mile and turn left into the park, then make the first left following the road to the parking lot at the bottom of the Challenge Staircase.

Have Fun, and Happy Trails!

click to enlarge Mini Incline
  • Bob Falcone

click to enlarge miniincline3.jpeg

Bob Falcone is a firefighter, arson investigator, non-profit board president, college instructor, photographer, hiker and small business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. You can follow him on Twitter @hikingbob, Facebook, or visit his website E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to

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