Back in 1949, when Zoltan Malocsay was 3, his family drove out from Oklahoma, hauling a homemade trailer, to experience Colorado and its most famous mountain. According to family lore, they reached the gate of Pikes Peak after 15 hours of driving, only to learn it was closed to camping.
It's been 60 years since that ill-fated trip, and Malocsay has lived in Colorado Springs for 35 of them. But even with Colorado Springs Utilities unveiling a "conceptual plan" to open up portions of its 9,000-plus-acre south slope area, Malocsay isn't satisfied.
"It's America's Mountain, but it's closed to the public!" exclaims Malocsay, author of the popular Trails Guide: Denver to Pikes Peak, among other titles.
Utilities' plan, released this week after two-plus years of meetings, would open some areas that have been closed to the public for a century. It calls for construction of two new south slope trails, one open to bicyclists, along with a picnic area. Fishing would be allowed in four reservoirs, and non-motorized boating on one.
To Malocsay's chagrin, the plan would not allow camping and would limit trails, possibly blocking a crucial east-west link that the group Friends of the Peak has been seeking to complete its Ring the Peak Trail. Kirsta Scherff-Norris, a Utilities wildlife biologist, says the concern is that hikers would disturb wetlands and disrupt lambing areas for bighorn sheep.
Others will likely be miffed that the area would remain closed for rock climbing, ATV use, hunting, ice fishing or fishing in streams.
The plan is available at csu.org by clicking on the watershed access concept plan link, and comments will be accepted through Feb. 26. The next step will be an implementation and monitoring plan, with public access likely coming in 2011 at the earliest.