This past Friday at 8 a.m., the City of Manitou Springs hosted a “soft” reopening ceremony for the beloved Manitou Incline. Crowds gathered beneath the towering staircase while city officials cut a ribbon and construction workers lifted the metal gate that had previously blocked the trail. The famous staircase-like trail that climbs 2,000 feet in under a mile has been closed for the past three months for repairs.
The reopening on Friday drew a serious crowd, from Manitou locals to exercise fanatics to figure skating Olympian Jason Brown. Everyone shared in the excitement that the project was finished early and that safety of the Incline had been drastically improved. “The Incline project had four major goals: improve safety, enhance the user experience, improve the trail’s long-term sustainability, and increase accessibility,” said Colorado Springs Communication Specialist Julie Smith.
The project’s final cost was $2 million for all improvements—ranging from building anti-erosion drainages, replacing wood steps and exposed rebar, to stabilizing new and old railroad ties. Funding for the project poured in from several different places: the TOPS organization (Trails, Open Space, and Parks), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant, and the Cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.
The long-term renovation project of the Incline was sectioned into three phases: the first closure in 2014 focused on reinforcing railroad ties and repairing the middle section of the stairs; the second closure in 2016 focused on strengthening areas of the staircase that were overly trafficked by visitors; and this third closure—which began in August of this year—worked on making all supporting sections of the Incline more sustainable for the long-term. Erosion and weather have been serious problems on the incline over the years, mainly due to its steep grade and high usage. The Incline has a “41 percent average grade, but up to [a] 68 percent grade at the steepest point,” reads the Manitou Incline Development Plan.
According to Sarah Bryarly from the Parks and Recreation Department of Colorado Springs, the long-term closure of the Incline was “expected to extend through December.” Timberline Landscaping, the company hired by the city to repair the drainage and supporting structures, has spent the last three months vigilantly working to get the Incline into tip-top shape and ready for use. The goal for the Incline after all three phases in the project was to create a sustainable trail that won’t need expensive, annual, maintenance and repairs. The success of the project will be tested over the course of this upcoming year.
Though there will soon be snow on the ground, this early reopening will allow die-hard incline enthusiasts to hike or run up the staircase one more time before winter sets in.