Photo above: Newly constructed railroad ties reinforce the Manitou Incline. The Incline is now re-opened for visitors to enjoy. Photos by Mary Murphy
After months of being closed for repairs, the popular Manitou Incline Trail (affectionately known as “the Incline”) is open once again. This was not the first time the iconic trail has been shut down temporarily; it was closed to all use in 1990 due to dangerous conditions caused by rockslides. However, this didn’t prevent hikers from taking ironic photos near the ‘No Trespassing’ sign until the trail was legally re-opened in 2013.
The popular trail includes 2,741 steps and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Closed since August for repairs, the Incline reopened Friday, Dec. 2, much to the delight of occasional visitors and exercise enthusiasts alike. According to Sarah Bryarly, Project Manager for the city of Manitou Springs, the trail should now be safer and more user-friendly, which is important because of the heavy traffic it endures. Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs locals have mixed emotions about the Incline. The traffic increases each year, leaving the trail more crowded, littered, and worn, yet this traffic also promotes tourism and boosts Manitou Springs’ economy.
Lack of popularity has never been a problem for the Incline. Unfortunately, as traffic on the trail increases, citizens living on nearby Ruxton Avenue suffer the consequences. The “traffic is unbearable, and there’s no place for residents to park,” said Bob Falcone, a 25-year resident of Manitou Springs. To remedy this lack of parking, the city of Manitou Springs increased parking rates to encourage hikers to use free parking areas and a free shuttle on the east end of town. Some locals perceive this as a “war on hikers” due to the fact that now they must pay more to park, but the Trails and Open Space Coalition claims it is simply trying to reduce the chaotic parking and traffic near the trailhead. The organization’s hope is that tourists will use the free parking rather than pay $20 a day.
The physical changes made to the trail are part of the ‘Phase Two’ construction plan for the Manitou Incline. This is the second of three phases the trail will undergo. The city received a $1 million FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) hazard mitigation grant along with some funding for open space and parks. With the Phase Two grant, retaining walls, cable ties, and culverts were all added to the trail. These structures help move water off the path and reduce the risk of trail erosion. Phase Three, anticipated to begin sometime in 2017, has received a $2 million fund through the Department of Housing and Urban Development for further maintenance and repairs.
Visitors should be aware of which hours the trail is now open, as law officers (sheriffs, local police, etc.) will be enforcing the rules and hours of the Incline closely. In addition, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette, Bryarly discussed the possibility of a “pay-to-play” model in order to increase funding for trail maintenance. Under this model, visitors would have to pay to use the Incline, but the money would go towards ensuring quality conditions on the trail. This proposal is being discussed, but whether the model will be implemented is yet to be determined.
The locals and regulars on the Manitou Incline suffer when it is closed for repairs, as it is a space to train, to be with one’s self, to enjoy an amazing view, and more. “You talk to people, they need to do it once, twice, or three times a week or they just don’t feel good about themselves,” said Susan Davies, Trails and Open Space Coalition Director, when speaking to the Denver Post. “Those are the people that really go through withdrawals when it closes periodically for these repairs.”
Thankfully, both regular and occasional visitors no longer have to suffer through these withdrawals. CC students and members of the Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs communities can again experience the pleasure of the exhausting and heart-pumping, yet rewarding Manitou Incline.