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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cities wrangle over Manitou Incline closure

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 7:07 PM

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and the city’s parks department have sharply criticized the city of Manitou Springs’ decision to close the Manitou Incline, saying it violates an intergovernmental agreement.

Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services announced the department has called for a meeting with Manitou Springs officials to discuss the decision.

At a press conference on local COVID-19 pandemic response Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Suthers said, “As to the closure of the Incline, I will simply say this. The Manitou Springs City Council voted to do it last night at a meeting. They did not consult the city of Colorado Springs beforehand. They did not consult the health department.

“I personally understand, for example, why they might want to curtail the shuttle [service to the Incline], because that brought people together.

“I personally would not have made the decision to close the Incline, where I think people can engage in exercise and keep social distancing.

"Based on what I know of the intergovernmental agreement between Manitou and the city of Colorado Springs, they really should have talked to us before they did it. But they have, in fact, done that.”

The city of Manitou Springs declared the Incline closed in an emergency resolution on the COVID-19 pandemic, which passed Tuesday, March 17, calling it “an attractive nuisance and health hazard.”

The resolution stated the Incline attracted a total of 208,412 visitors from March through July last year, noting free shuttle buses are “packed to capacity” on the route from parking areas to the Incline, and public restroom facilities are “insufficient or non-existent for the number of visitors" using the Incline.

"Use of the Incline property and surrounding properties to urinate and defecate, which is unsanitary and unlawful, has been frequently observed,” the resolution adds. "Because conditions are unsuitable for public safety and welfare the Incline will be closed to the public immediately.” 

Manitou Springs police were reportedly turning vehicles back from the Incline parking lots Wednesday afternoon.

In an announcement on its Facebook page 4 p.m. Wednesday, Colorado Springs’ parks department addressed the closure, stating, “As one of the property owners, we should have been contacted to discuss concerns, plans, and health considerations in advance of any action being taken.”
click to enlarge 08-mar-manitou-incline-calendar-2018-1256.jpg

“Our department was not notified in advance of any action being considered by the Manitou Springs City Council regarding this closure,” the statement reads. “This is, unfortunately, not in alignment with the Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Colorado Springs and the City of Manitou Springs."

The agreement states: "To that end, the Parties agree to coordinate all activities related to the management and operations of the Incline. Neither Party shall take an action that impacts the other Party without first consulting with the other Party." …

“Further, the Incline closure is inconsistent with state encouragement to get outside and enjoy our parks, trails and open spaces. All City of Colorado Springs parks, trails and open spaces remain open.

“We continue to encourage good hygiene and social distancing with members outside of your immediate family on these properties and elsewhere. We have installed additional signage in our properties to reinforce this guidance.

“This is a difficult time for all and enjoying the outdoors like we do here in Colorado is a great way to reduce stress and stay healthy.”

Built in 1906 to carry pipes up the side of Mount Manitou to the Ruxton Hydroelectric Plant, the Incline has been legal to hike since February 2013. The Incline covers 2,744 steps and climbs 2,000 feet in elevation in less than a mile, and draws tourists from all over the country.
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