OUR VIEW: One step closer on Incline (poll)

ed Updated: January 14, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 14, 2013

We are one step closer to restoring respect for property rights and rule of law. Within weeks, all may be able to enjoy a recreational asset that law-abiding individuals have avoided.

President Barack Obama last week signed a bill introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, that eliminates a major obstacle to opening the Manitou Incline for legal use by the general public. The community awaits only approval by the city of Manitou Springs for the “no trespassing” signs to come down.

The Incline, a trail that goes straight up the face of Mount Manitou, is the rail bed of the former Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway. The railway closed in 1990, though the Cog Railway continues taking people from a station near the base of the Incline to the top of Pikes Peak.

Since Incline Railway’s closure, the rail bed has become an iconic recreational trail that’s used by visitors from around the world. Few other trails lead hiker, joggers and runners straight up the side of a mountain. There’s only one catch: It’s a crime to step foot on the Incline without permission from various owners, which includes the Cog Railway, Manitou Springs and the federal government. Because the National Forest Service owns portions of the trail, opening it to the public required an act of Congress and the president’s autograph.

The “no trespassing” signs are routinely ignored, and some estimate as many as a half million people trespass on the Incline each year. Management of the Cog Railway has complained to The Gazette, on several occasions in past years, about their inability to keep people from using the trail. We have not spoken with management of the Cog Railway since the business was procured by the owner of The Gazette’s parent company, Clarity Media Group.

The Gazette has criticized city officials for boasting about using the trail in violation of law. In doing so, they undermine private property rights and promote the wrongful notion that some laws don’t really matter.

“Yipeeee!!! I’ll no longer be a criminal!” wrote Colorado Springs City Councilman Tim Leigh in an email to The Gazette after Obama signed the Incline bill.

The Manitou Springs City Council might take action this month that should be the final move in freeing the Incline for lawful use.

Though The Gazette’s editorial board has asked hikers to respect the law, we have also encouraged local and federal officials to free the Incline and we look forward to opening day.

Colorado Springs has no shortage of great outdoor recreation opportunities, and the Incline ranks among the best of them. It has been described in a variety of national publications that appeal to hikers and athletes. Yet, in conversations around town we find residents who won’t use it until the day they can do so without breaking laws.

Manitou Springs, the ball is in your court. The Incline is an asset to the entire region, but mostly stands to benefit businesses and residents of Manitou Springs. People who climb the Incline often venture into local restaurants and shops to do business, which only helps the economy of Manitou Springs.

Get the Incline open and turn this forbidden fruit into an asset that will only make our region more attractive to young, athletic visitors and potential new residents and businesses.

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