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Incline Friends ante up for Barr Trail and RMFI 

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
It's easy to see that users of the Manitou Incline contribute to heavy traffic on the first 3 miles of Barr Trail. According to the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, 3- to 5-times more people use those 3 miles than the remaining 10 miles between the top of the Incline and the summit of the Peak. With thousands of Incline and Barr Trail users traversing a trail that was built 100 years ago on steep topography and fragile Pikes Peak granite, constant care and maintenance is need to combat the constant degradation of the trail.

In 2013, RMFI was tasked with the ongoing maintenance on the section between the trailhead and a trail that connected Barr Trail to the top of the Incline. RMFI's work on Barr Trail is funded by a portion of the parking fees that Manitou Springs collects from users of the Barr Trail parking lot.  According to RMFI Executive Director Jennifer Peterson, RMFI received $40,000 per year from 2013 to 2016,  before seeing a decline to $35,000 in 2017, and to only a bit more than $16,000 in 2018 because of decreased parking revenue in 2017. Peterson says the reduction in funding is due to fewer people using the parking lot, likely due to the Incline being closed for several months and parking fees at the Barr Trail lot having been raised to $40 per day in 2017.

The Barr Trail parking fees have since been reduced to seasonally-adjusted day and hourly rates. But, with the Incline back open and as popular as ever, and Barr Trail still the most common route to the summit, trail usage and maintenance needs continue. To make matters worse, Peterson says that even the $40,000 RMFI received in the past fell short of the estimated $60,000-$80,000 worth of work that is needed to really get a handle on the maintenance of the trail.

This past week, the Incline Friends, the non-profit group that has historically provided support for the Incline by way of advocacy, fund-raising and manual labor, donated $10,000 to RMFI for the expressed purpose of Barr Trail maintenance. It's the first time the organization has donated money for Barr Trail — the group usually focuses its efforts on the Incline. According to Incline Friends President Dave Adair, the donation came from money users dropped into a donation tube the group installed at the foot of the Incline, as well as donations from businesses and from Incline Friends members.

"It is important to note that while some are clamoring for a user fee for the Incline (without a clear definition or purpose of the use of the funds), it is the users who have made the donations that enabled Incline Friends to make this grant," Adair says via email. And the generosity has not gone unnoticed.

Peterson says she appreciates that the Incline Friends "stepped up in a big way to show their support" of RMFI's efforts, also noting that RMFI is seeking grants to at least get back to the $40,000 they've received in years past.

Trails and Open Space Coalition Executive Director Susan Davies applauded the cooperation between the Incline Friends and RMFI, and offered some advice on how users of Barr Trail and the Incline can help improve the trail. Davies reminds hikers not to cut shortcuts around switchbacks, since that causes erosion and more repair work. She also asks that hikers contribute to the Incline Friends, and that trail users consider volunteering for trail work days. You can find the work dates at openspacevolunteers.org.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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