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GUEST COLUMN: Pay-to-play not the right step for the Incline

By: DAVID ADAIR
April 9, 2018 Updated: April 9, 2018 at 4:05 am
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The Pikes Peak region has a park that is world renowned, is responsible for over $800,000 in free publicity, and is one heck of a workout. Yes, its popularity has caused issues but let's work together to solve them. Most towns would love to have this "problem".

Used as the ultimate stairclimber, the Manitou Incline has recorded over 1 million trips since 2013. It is used by Olympic athletes, local fanatics, high school teams, soccer moms, babies, an occasional bear, at least one dinosaur, people from out of state, and out of country.

People use it for the exercise, to escape, or as a personal challenge - whether making that first successful summit trip, or 13 consecutive trips for the "Inclinathon".

It should not be expected to be a money making "attraction." It is first and foremost part of the Colorado Springs Parks system and should be managed as such.

While it attracts out-of-towners, it should not be expected to generate revenue for local governments, instead the focus should be on keeping it free and open to the citizens of the Pikes Peak region.

More and more "pay-to-play" is mentioned by some as a solution to issues facing the Incline corridor, including the Incline, Barr Trail and Ruxton Canyon. Such a suggestion is premature given that these issues have not been completely and comprehensively defined.

That being said, the Pikes Peak region is becoming recognized as an outdoor recreation destination, a reputation that will be enhanced by Ring-the-Peak and the soon to be completed Missing Link trail. We can share our trails and it's perfectly acceptable for businesses to make a buck from adventuring tourists, but not at the expense of the asset becoming a managed attraction.

We encourage the entities that manage the Incline corridor to recognize this.

At the same time, we cannot stress enough that the Incline is a local, unique treasure and the first priority is to manage it for the loyal, local users. These "regulars" put forth the effort to make it legal and have, through the years, faithfully supported the Incline through donations of money and "sweat equity" invested in trail maintenance projects.

In recent years, an annual allotment of $40,000 for trail maintenance has barely kept the Barr at status quo.

The Rocky Mountain Field Institute oversees much of those maintenance efforts and estimates it would take $60,000 a year to maintain and make improvements to the Barr. Government contributions to those efforts have been dwindling.

In a parks system whose budget is at least $5 million less than it was 10 years ago, it takes user donations to help make up the shortfall and keep pay-to-play at bay. With over 250,000 trips per year, $1 per trip, dropped in our donation tube would ensure that the Incline corridor is maintained at a sustainable level. We are confident that Incline stair steppers will step up to that challenge without the arm-twisting of a mandated fee.

We are all part of the IncliNation!

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David Adair is president of the Incline Friends Board of Directors. Incline Friends is a 501 (c)(3) non profit whose mission is to "Maintain and improve the Manitou Incline as an athletic and outdoors recreation asset for the Pikes Peak Region and beyond."

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