Think hiking the Incline is a bear?

Consider the efforts of volunteers and Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services personnel who raised some $1.6 million to cover repairs to the bruising yet beloved trail in Manitou Springs.

"We've raised the necessary funds to stabilize it and secure it," said Sandi Yukman of Incline Friends, a nonprofit that was honored for its fundraising efforts Thursday at a monthly meeting of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Now the big question is when work will begin.

"It could be as early as this fall, but there are still issues we're working out," including finding a contractor to perform the work, said Sarah Bryarly, a city landscape architect. She emphasized that any snags in the process could push the project into 2015.

The Incline, which rises 2,000 feet in less than a mile, is slated to receive TLC meant to make it safer and better able to withstand heavy rain.

To the degree possible, workers will preserve the rustic character of the trail, which rises in a long staircase of railroad ties haphazardly planted in the mountainside.

During this week's advisory board meeting, Yukman announced that a counter buried in the trail recorded 198,000 trips in the past 9 months alone - putting the Incline among the most popular trails in the region.

The trail will be off-limits while the work is performed. Among the problems to be solved is how to transport construction materials to the top.

"It may have to be a helicopter. It may be mules. I have no idea how the contractor's going to decide to do it," Yukman said. She said the project was expected to be put out to bid soon.

As part of a multiyear fundraising effort, Incline Friends raised an estimated $100,000. Among the other major donors is the city of Colorado Springs, which is contributing $150,000; Great Outdoors Colorado, a state lottery fund that has pledged $350,000; the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is providing $500,000; and Colorado Springs Utilities, which is expected to contribute $300,000 normally spent on maintenance of a utility line that runs near the trail.

The Incline was among the areas on Pikes Peak battered by flooding last fall.

Use of the trail is only expected to grow with the region's expanding population.