Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UPDATE: Incline deal takes giant step

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 4:47 PM

A little extra information, courtesy of the city:

Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs City Councils approve agreement to manage Manitou Incline

Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs city councils yesterday approved a milestone inter-governmental (IGA) agreement to manage one of the Pikes Peak region’s most-popular trails. The agreement is one important step in a lengthy process to facilitate the legal use of the former Mt. Manitou Incline Scenic Railway for public recreation. Currently, hikers are trespassing each time they scale the steep slope, which gains some 2,000 feet of elevation in one mile. An estimated 350,000 trips are made up the trail annually.

Colorado Springs Council President Scott Hente said, “This project is a great collaboration between two communities and three landowners to mitigate the impacts of unmanaged recreational activities and establish another iconic outdoor destination for Pikes Peak Region residents and visitors. I’m so grateful that Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs are again leveraging their combined resources to enhance the quality of life in both of these great cities.”

The IGA is essentially a good-faith agreement between neighboring communities on how to manage the trail — once it is open. Approving the IGA did not open the Incline to legal public use and no opening date has been set. Challenging issues must be resolved before the cities will agree to open the Incline such as: managing parking in Manitou Springs, particularly along Ruxton Avenue and in surrounding neighborhoods, and making trail and trailhead improvements. In addition, legal agreements are still required with the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company, and United States Forest Service. Congress must also abandon the railway, which is being handled by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.

In the meantime, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs are establishing a review committee to address issues related to the opening and management of the Incline and a volunteer group, Incline Friends, is proceeding to improve the trail and address safety concerns. The cities will continue to update the public as progress is made to formally open the Incline to legal, public recreation.

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A deal to legalize hiking on the wildly popular Manitou Incline trail is one step closer to reality.

Despite concerns about everything from liability to parking to overcrowding in Manitou Springs, both the Manitou Springs City Council and the Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement that divvies up responsibilities for the trail once it's opened.

Springs City Councilor Bernie Herpin said he was excited to see the project move forward, even if he never plans to use the trail.

"Being a law-and-order guy, I've resisted the urge to kill myself by taking three steps up the Incline," Herpin joked.

The Incline, a steep trail up Mount Manitou that is illegally hiked 350,000 to 500,000 times a year, sits on property owned by Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the U.S. Forest Service. Colorado Springs would manage the trail alongside a friends group, while Manitou Springs tackles traffic and parking issues.

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