Updated: January 31, 2013 at 12:00 am
Tens of thousands of trespassers, along with those who obey property rights and the law, will use the Manitou Incline legally starting Friday. An activity that has mocked the rule of law for decades will finally go legit, after the Manitou Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allow access to the trail, which runs a grueling 2,000 feet at an average 40 percent grade up the face of Mount Manitou on a former tourist train route.
Portions of the trail belong to the private owners of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Co., Colorado Springs Utilities, the U.S. Forest Service and Manitou Springs city government. Thrown into the mix were federal regulations of abandoned rail routes. The multijurisdictional ownership and federal law created a bureaucratic tangle that made opening the trail a seven-year ordeal that involved an act of Congress and signature of President Barack Obama.
Gazette editorials have for years excoriated local politicians, and others, for flaunting their dismissal of private property rights and no-trespassing laws. As of Friday, we will no longer complain. In fact, we’ll do an about-face and suggest that people in good condition consider making a climb up and down the Incline a regular activity. We suggest that people travel great distances in order to take on the Incline.
While hundreds of thousands of trespassers used the Incline each year, it’s safe to assume that a substantial number of people stayed off the trail out of respect for the law and signs that said to stay off it. If that’s the case, use of the Incline is sure to increase.
If the Incline were a movable facility seeking a home, communities would try to attract it like they go after flashy high-tech employers. It would be seen as a major asset that could draw tourists and economic development to the region.
We can, and should, view legalization of this trail as the addition of a giant asset to our community. Promotion of the trail will no longer involve advocacy of lawlessness. Local governments and businesses can feature it in brochures. Community leaders can plan organized competitions that may attract athletes from around the globe. A similar trail would be difficult, if not impossible, to find.
“It’s time to not only embrace or accept the Incline but also to start promoting it,” Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder said.
Today, we invite Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The New York Times and other major media outlets to report on a climb that’s among the country’s most unique and challenging adventures.
Everyone in any position of authority in the region should find a way to publicly celebrate the opening of this trail. The rest of us should consider talking it up on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.
To do its part, The Gazette asks users of the trail on Friday and over the weekend to snap photos of themselves or fellow climbers holding the front page of Friday’s Gazette on the summit. The three most creative entries will receive gift cards ($200 for first, $100 second, $50 third) to The Promenade Shops at Briargate. Email images to firstname.lastname@example.org by 7 a.m. Monday with “Incline” as the subject. Winners, to be selected by Gazette staff, will be announced in Tuesday’s Life section.
As of Friday, when the trail goes legal, it’s hard to see a downside and multiple benefits are obvious. The Pikes Peak region is all about health, fitness and the great outdoors. Use this trail safely. Protect it and try to leave it better than you found it. Look after other climbers in order to keep it safe. Make this amazing trail an asset that benefits the entire Pikes Peak region. Go forth and mock the law no more — starting Friday.