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Bill to allow Incline opening winding through Congress
Legislation to remove a legal obstacle to opening the popular yet illegal Manitou Incline is winding its way through Congress.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, introduced House Resolution 4073, which would allow the Cog Railway to abandon the right-of-way on the former tourist train route, which attracts hundreds of thousands of hikers a year.
Lamborn and U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon spoke in favor of the bill at a hearing Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
“Legalizing access to the trail will allow the surrounding communities access to repair sections of the trail that are in poor condition and will make use safer for all hikers,” Lamborn said.
Weldon said the railroad operators, who shut the tourist train up the side of Mount Manitou in 1990, previously tried to abandon its right-of-way, but federal law requires a court decision or act of Congress.
“H.R. 4073 would remove this impediment, allowing the right-of-way to return to the national forest system. The Forest Service would then issue an authorization to an outside party for management as a hiking trail,” Weldon said. The “outside party” is the cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, which in February approved an inter-governmental agreement for managing the trail.
No one testified against the bill.
Lamborn’s office expects the bill to come up for a vote by the House Natural Resources Committee and the full House this spring.
No date has been set for the Incline’s legal opening. The other main hurdle is to have the trail repaired enough that officials in the two cities are ready to open it.
The Incline Friends, a group that formed to oversee cleanup of the trail, will hold a work day May 12.