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Manitou OKs legal use of Incline
Some time over the weekend, the battered old “no trespassing” sign at the base of the Manitou Incline vanished.
Its removal was premature: Friday at dawn it will no longer be a crime to hike the Pikes Peak region’s most popular trail.
The Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to allow legal access to the trail, which runs 2,000 feet up a mountain along a former tourist train route on the west side of Manitou Springs. Thousands of hikers and fitness buffs a month have been climbing it — illegally — for years.
Manitou’s vote signals the end of a saga that took more than seven years and went all the way to the White House, because of an antiquated federal law on rail route abandonment.
The Colorado Springs City Council, which is partnering with Manitou to manage the trail, approved legal use this month.
“Everybody said when we started this we’d never get both cities to agree, three property owners to agree, and then we had to get both houses of Congress and the president to agree,” Colorado Springs City Council president Scott Hente said. Hente is credited with launching the legalization process.
The two cities last year agreed to an inter-governmental agreement on managing the trail, listing 13 conditions under which it could be opened. Although one item, parking, needs further work, officials moved forward to meet the deadline for a crucial grant. Officials say the trail needs $1 million in work.
The vote marked a dramatic change in Manitou, where many residents grumbled about the parking and noise from so many trail users, a “nagging sore” for the city, Mayor Marc Snyder said. He hopes the city can reap economic benefits from the Incline’s legalization.
“It is time to not only embrace or accept the Incline but also to start promoting it,” he said.
Manitou City Councilman Matt Carpenter, the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon champion who helped to popularize the trail in the 1990s, said he remains concerned users are hiking too early in the morning, disturbing residents on nearby Ruxton Avenue.
Still, he voted for opening the trail and acknowledged his own law-breaking ways.
“My wife and I have illegally trespassed 12 Sundays in a row and it will be nice not to have to tilt our heads,” he said.
Snyder said there are no plans for police to enforce trail rules, including hours of use and the ban on dogs, but that could change.
Manitou officials will install pay-to-park kiosks on Ruxton Avenue, institute a parking permit system for area residents and run a shuttle from downtown to the trailhead during warm months.
An official celebration will be held in March. The group Incline Friends, which has worked to open the trail to legal use, plans to hold a celebratory — and legal — hike at 7 a.m. Friday.
Member Sandi Yukman brought several bottles of Incline wine, made by a local winery, for those who worked to open the trail. She had planned to christen the trail Friday, using the old “no trespassing” sign, and hopes it is returned. Officials want to donate it to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.
She said legalization is important to ensure the trail is maintained for future generations.
So, how will it feel to finally climb the trail legally?
“Amazing,” Yukman said, “but not any easier whatsoever.”