The Gazette: Colorado Springs, Manitou approve Incline agreement

February 29, 2012
In The News




The Manitou Incline, the former railroad route that became the most popular – if illegal – trail in the region, is headed toward legitimacy.

Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved an inter-governmental agreement for managing the trail Tuesday afternoon. Late Tuesday, after a marathon meeting, Manitou Springs City Council did the same.


Manitou council members still harbor concerns. Some in Manitou are fed up by the traffic and parking problems associated with the trails many users. As one resident said Tuesday night, "There are residents up there who would like to blow the Incline up because there’s too much traffic, and how they’re going to alleviate this traffic is a major problem."


But officials overcame their skepticism and voted unanimously for the IGA.

 "I find myself being full of faith that this is going to work out and everybody is going to do what they said they’d do and five years from now people will have a first-class amenity that they can access without intruding on the quality of life in Manitou Springs," said Mayor Marc Snyder.


Up to 500,000 people a year hike up the former railroad line, which gains 2,000 feet of elevation in a mile, though hiking the trail requires trespassing. The IGA is a necessary step for legally opening the trail, placing responsibility for managing the trail with Colorado Springs and managing parking with Manitou Springs.


Manitou is undergoing a traffic study to address concerns, and the IGA was changed to allow for a three-year period after which officials may consider charging a fee to hike the trail.


Some Manitou council members want to charge a fee from the outset. Colorado Springs Deputy City Attorney Wynetta Massey said Tuesday that city could be open to lawsuits if someone were injured there after paying to hike.


"As long as the city does not charge a fee for a recreational activity on property the city owns, leases or manages, we're not liable at all," Massey said.


The changes were enough to convince the skeptics on the Manitou council, including Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon champion Matt Carpenter, whose workouts in the 1990s helped popularize the trail, and Councilman Michael Gerbig.


"I hope there’s serious discussion before it opens. I hope there’s no push to open this thing before we have a real parking plan our citizens can accept and can live with," Gerbig said.


The trail won’t legally open until both cities agree it is ready. Work must be done to improve safety, such as shoring up falling ties and taking care of dangerous rebar. Some of that will be done during a May 12 work day by volunteer group Incline Friends.

Congress must also act on a legal abandonment bill for the rail line, which is being handled by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.

Many Incline users made impassioned pleas for Manitou to support the IGA.

"If you keep on saying to yourself, ‘You’d better not do anything until every T is crossed and every I is dotted, we’ll still be here talking about the Incline five years from now," said Steve Jeroslow. "For God’s sake, let’s legalize it so we can get to work."

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