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Search and rescue softens tone on Manitou Incline descenders, lauds 'healthy debate'

April 21, 2017 Updated: April 21, 2017 at 8:39 pm
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The first wave of hikers ascend the newly renovated Incline trail Friday, December 5, 2014. The Incline was closed for three-months as it underwent $1.5 million facelift to improve loose railroad ties, erosion control and remove debris. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Taking a different tone Friday, El Paso County Search and Rescue deleted its previous Facebook message about downhill climbers on the Manitou Incline and replaced it with a more diplomatic response.

It's latest post states that the original message served a purpose by starting "a healthy debate."

The group hopes the discussion on whether the Incline is for uphill traffic only will lead to better "socializing" of the recommendation "to those that maybe don't realize that coming down is extremely dangerous on this 'Extreme Trail."

Emergency responders have rescued Incline hikers for a number of health issues, including dizziness, shortness of breath, exhaustion, fainting, falls, broken bones, chest pains, and heart attacks, the group said. Many of those can't be avoided and represent only a small portion of the attraction's travelers, they said.

"99.9 percent of people using the incline do great and never need first responders," Friday's post said. "You're dedicated to keeping the Incline clean and safe. You also help the injured and give us room to work when we're up there."

But search and rescue would still like to see fewer people descending the mile-long path.

They proposed installing more signs on the trail, like at the bailout point, to warn hikers coming off Barr Trail that walking down the Incline is not recommended.

"Thank you for all of your support," the post closed.

The message was in stark contrast to one posted Thursday, where the first responders called for downhill climbers to "STOP IT!"

After rescuing an injured climber hours earlier, the group stressed forcefully that "the Incline is for UPHILL traffic only. ... Go UP the Incline and DOWN Barr Trail."

Official incline rules list "Uphill only" travel as a suggestion, not a "hard and fast rule," said Kurt Schroeder, manager of Parks, Trails and Open Space.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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