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Incline trail volunteers make amends for years of abuse
For something we love so much, we’ve given the Manitou Incline a lot of abuse.
Littered its 2,000 seemingly vertical feet with trash.
Left our dogs’ waste on the railway ties that make up the “trail.”
Cut through brush to blaze our own dang way to the trailhead.
Volunteers gathered at the popular trail Saturday to make amends. They grabbed shovels and rakes to close social trails that threatened to erode the hillside. Planted bushes and spread seeds. They dug holes and set fence posts in concrete. Erected signs asking people to follow basic rules for safe use.
Under overcast skies they sweated out their love.
“The cities don’t have money to pay for trail work, so you have to put in the time,” said Brian VanValkenburg, a volunteer crew leader and board member of Friends of the Peak, which takes a lead role in maintaining the adjacent Barr Trail.
“We had a great crew today,” said Jeff Webb, a landscape architect for Colorado Springs’ parks department, as he poured concrete around a sign post. “We didn’t get as many people as we first thought, but the people who showed up cranked!”
In less than eight hours about 50 volunteers:
• Covered four major social trails that scarred the hillside above the Barr Trail parking lot.
• Threw branches and vegetation across the old trails to prevent re-use.
• Erected a split-rail fence to help keep people off the hillside.
• Installed signs to explain the revegetation effort, direct people to the trailhead, and lay out proposed Rules of Use.
The volunteers’ work aided efforts to legally open the trail to public use. Yes, people did all that work for a trail that’s illegal to hike (though hundreds of people do so daily).
“We obliterated those social trails,” said volunteer Scott Davis, an avid hiker of Colorado’s highest peaks.
“It felt good to come out and work. It looks official now, like people really care about this trail. I hope the cities, the government — the people who will decide whether to make the trail legal — see that.”
The work day, organized by the Incline Friends group, outdoor gear store REI, Friends of the Peak and the Trails and Open Space Coalition, completed items on a checklist, of sorts, that must be filled before the trail can be opened to the public.
“This showed real community involvement,” said Scott Abbott, supervisor of Colorado Springs’ Regional Parks, Trails and Open Space.
“This is about care and respect. The people who volunteered here have shown they care about this trail, this place. Now people have to show respect for the area and for the work that was done.”
The trail crosses land owned by the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs Utilities. The cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs have agreed to manage the trail and its use, in an effort to open it to the public.
“I can’t believe all that work was done in one day,” said Incline Friends president Steve Bremner, smiling. “We can’t thank all these volunteers enough.”