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Advocates take next step in realizing Ring the Peak

September 29, 2016 Updated: September 30, 2016 at 6:12 am
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photo - Gazette file aerial shot of the north slope of Pikes Peak. Mark Reis photo
Gazette file aerial shot of the north slope of Pikes Peak. Mark Reis photo 

Advocates have taken the next step toward realizing a fully connected trail around Pikes Peak.

The Trails and Open Space Coalition has submitted a $100,000 grant to Great Outdoors Colorado in hopes of hiring a planning consultant to facilitate the creation of a missing southwest segment of the Ring the Peak Trail. TOSC anticipates learning the fate of the grant on Dec. 2, when GOCO is expected to announce decisions with money it receives in part from lottery proceeds.

Hope is high among advocates considering Ring the Peak's traction. The project was placed on Gov. John Hickenlooper's January "16 in 2016" list, which designated 16 trail projects around the state most worthy of funding.

"I can't say we're guaranteed, but compared to a lot of other grant requests, I think ours has a lot of merit," said Paul Mead, president of Friends of the Peak, the nonprofit that has eyed an alignment through the backcountry near Victor and Cripple Creek ever since Ring the Peak's 70-mile grand vision rose in 1999.

TOSC has spent the better part of this decade looking into the alignment, with potential links spanning between 8 and 14 miles. Problems are as numerous as the properties the alignment would run through - properties owned by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Teller County, Victor, Cripple Creek and many private individuals.

Advocates spent the past year meeting with Victor and Cripple Creek leaders over the possibility of a route stretching near municipal watersheds. City leaders staunchly oppose that idea. They have returned with proposals for a more southern route that would parallel roads. But that route wouldn't be pleasing to recreationists, advocates say. And they've been told by Colorado Parks and Wildlife that a more desirable option to the north would be bad for a struggling herd of bighorn sheep.

To navigate the complexities, advocates are turning to a planner.

"Sometimes, you need to bring in the real pros who do this kind of thing on a regular basis," said Bill Koerner, TOSC's advocacy director.

If the grant is approved, he said, the hope would be to have a planner hired in the spring, with a master plan crafted before the end of 2017.

Filling another missing portion of the 70-mile Ring the Peak vision appears closer in sight: El Paso County officials expect construction to start next year on the first mile of a 5-mile Ute Pass Regional Trail connector reaching toward Manitou Springs.

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Contact Seth Boster: 636-0332

Twitter: @SethBoster­­

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