The Manitou Incline is getting a face-lift, but don't go expecting a beauty queen.
When the $1.6 million transformation begins this fall, a chief goal will be adding enough retaining walls and culverts to slow the water that cascades down and threatens to wash the trail from the mountain.
But there's a secondary objective: retaining the chaotic look and feel of what Don Jacobs of Enginuity Engineering Solutions - the firm that designed the repairs - calls "a crazy climb up a weird railroad."
That means leaving some of the warts intact.
"We're hoping to replace as few ties as possible," Colorado Springs landscape architect and project engineer Sarah Bryarly said of efforts to retain the Incline's rustic character.
In adhering to public feedback during the planning process, crews also will strive to retain the ties' haphazard placement, ensuring that hikers still will have to scramble, shimmy and lunge their way to the top, just the way they like it.
The Incline - built in 1907 and used for decades as a tourist railway - once resembled a traditional rail corridor, with evenly spaced, uniform ties climbing the trail's 2,000 feet of vertical gain.
The more recent look of jumbled pick-up sticks is the result of years of heavy use and falling water. Preserving it actually adds a degree of challenge to the repair project, Bryarly said.
In all, crews will build 32 retaining walls to stabilize the hillsides and to slow water. The culverts now buried along the trail - most of them rusty and full of decaying granite - will be replaced with U-shaped timber chases that easily can be cleared of debris.
"We will have to do some grading, some excavating and some filling where the retaining walls are . but that doesn't really impair the actual walking surface of the Incline," Bryarly said.
Repairs are expected to begin in late August and will take four months to complete.
Trespassers face a $100 ticket - and risk extending the closure by pushing the project off schedule.
Said Bryarly: "We want to get in there and get out as quickly as possible, and the only way we can do that is if people work with us."