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Is the Incline a burden or an amenity?
From her art studio on Ruxton Avenue, Tracy Miller sees the “Incline people” every day.
“I can’t tell you how many cars have been parked in front of our store and they’re Incline people. They’ve got their CamelBaks on,” the owner of Tracy Miller Studio Gallery said. “They are taking up spaces that are in front of retail (shops) and really should be for retail customers.”
“I love seeing hikers and people that are athletic, but it would be nicer if they shopped here,” said Patti Filler, owner of the adjacent Fare Bella Studio and Gallery in Manitou Springs. “ ‘Barbie’ and ‘Ken’ run down the hill and they stretch and look in their car window and then drive away.”
The “Incline people” aren’t going away.
The Manitou Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to open the Incline to the public, the last step needed to allow legal access to the former railroad line, which runs 2,000 feet up a mountainside. Legal access begins at dawn Friday, after which the hundreds of thousands who climb it each year will no longer be trespassing on private property.
Mayor Marc Snyder said the city can benefit economically from what has been a “nagging sore” for the community. Restaurants and coffee shops will cater to climbers’ post-workout thirst and sell Incline souvenirs to those who brave the railroad ties, he said.
“This is no longer something we’re burdened with,” he said Tuesday. “It really is an amenity.”
But some, like the art studio owners, aren’t so sure and worry parking and traffic problems will increase. The Incline trailhead is in a steep canyon with limited parking, and on summer days and weekends, hikers tie up parking spaces for blocks.
“It’s really going to become a destination even more so than it is. Now that it’s legal, people think things might have changed, but the reality is between Monday and Wednesday, what’s changed?” said Ruxton Avenue resident Jay Rohrer, owner of Victoria’s Keep Bed & Breakfast. “The only thing that’s going to change is you’re not going to be able to issue anybody a trespassing ticket.”
His preference was “to have seen the thing shut down and ripped out.”
Another Ruxton Avenue resident, interviewed on his way out of his driveway, called the Incline a “pain in the butt.”
City officials are drawing up a plan for pay-to-park kiosks along Ruxton, permits for residents and shuttle buses during the warm months, but Rohrer believes all it will do is generate a revenue stream for Manitou.
The Cog Railway, former owner of the bottom stretch of the Incline, fought a losing battle in the late 1990s and early 2000s to keep people off.
But general manager Spencer Wren said he is “real excited” about it being legalized.
“There are still some issues to be addressed with parking, but Manitou has done an incredible job the last couple of years in coming together and coming up with some real concrete solutions to parking,” Wren said. “Once Manitou starts to charge for parking along Ruxton Avenue and Manitou Avenue, I think we’ll actually see some decrease (in use) because people will look for free avenues elsewhere.”
At T-shirt shop Flying Eagle, manager Ashley Carson said they sell about 10 Incline shirts a day, and that could increase.
Sharon Collyer, owner of Native American-themed shop Eagle Dancer, said Incline users often stop into the store and the exposure for Manitou won’t hurt.
“People have been hiking the Incline regardless, and I don’t think legalizing it is probably going to change that,” she said.