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Ahead of the Incline trail 

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Greg Wellens of Adventures Out West is working with property owners at the west end of Manitou Springs to propose a new parking lot and trailhead for a new northern trail to the top of the Manitou Incline.

Imagine one day people parking their cars, hopping a shuttle bus to the Incline base, climbing it and then returning via a beautiful new trail to the parking lot. Imagine mountain bikers challenging themselves on a 9-percent-grade trail that accesses other trails from the Pikes Peak Highway to North Cheyenne Canyon.

A sustainable, multi-use trail has so many benefits for residents, businesses and tourists alike. A new trailhead and parking lot on Manitou Avenue will be so helpful with Manitou's traffic congestion, especially once the population of the Pikes Peak region tops 1 million in a few decades.

The landowners and property developers of this project have already hosted a public meeting for input and have made adaptations to the plan. Citizens wanted Manitou's western entrance to be attractive and to put the paid public parking lot more out of sight. However, a paid parking lot only makes sense if there is a trail with a trailhead.

The developers will need to know the public and various governmental entities support the trail plan. Otherwise, they will use their land to develop commercial and residential buildings. Then the opportunity to have a new trailhead away from Ruxton Avenue could be gone forever!

Here are some of the reasons I believe it is important to secure this trail route and fund the trail building as soon as possible:

• The trail would alleviate much of the parking and traffic congestion on Ruxton Avenue.

• The trail would better service Manitou Incline users (maybe with a shuttle to the base of the Incline).

• The trail would take "overcrowding" off the Barr Trail, making it more sustainable and pleasurable to use.

• The trail would be a new way for runners, bikers and hikers to access Barr Camp, Pikes Peak and all the trails west of Manitou.

• The trail would be built to modern standards, saving lots of time and money for maintenance.

• The trail would allow emergency personnel to reach the top of the Manitou Incline in all-terrain vehicles.

• The trail would allow personnel to access the upper Ruxton watershed area on ATVs to conduct fire-hazard mitigation.

• Having a trail easement down to Manitou Avenue keeps the option open for future trail routes.

• The parking lot would provide more parking for the whole city and would keep some traffic congestion away from the Ruxton roundabout as well as downtown.

It is my understanding that the landowners' property does connect to various publicly owned lands all the way to the top of the Incline. So, a new northern trail off the Incline is do-able without taking private land. Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the National Forest Service (plus volunteer user groups) work together to make it happen. Colorado Springs Utilities and the National Forest Service, who own much of the upper land, will need to be persuaded, perhaps by citizens lobbying.

It is a long, winding road to a finished trail. We will need to: conduct environmental studies, intergovernmental agreements, and the normal governmental planning process; negotiate with property owners; arrange funding for trail construction; design the exact route; and build the actual trail. But, where there is a will, there is a way!

This trail/parking plan could be self-supporting, with very little initial cost to taxpayers and city governments. The biggest one-time expense may be planning and building the trail, which can be done efficiently if Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs work together to come up with the money.

It is a win-win situation, and a great value for tourists, local user groups, residents, city governments and our region.

If we want to be a national leader in outdoor recreation and healthy living, we need to be visionary and collaborative. More importantly this trail (and its trailhead) will be one of our legacies for future generations.

— Shanti Toll

Shanti Toll, a longtime Manitou Springs resident, has been involved with various open-space and environmental issues.

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