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The Barr Trail has great value to hikers and runners. It deserves world-class attention

By: Susan Davies Special to The Gazette
March 12, 2018 Updated: March 14, 2018 at 1:40 pm
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Lauren May, front, and Kara McArdell of Colorado Springs climb Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, around the giant boulder that fell onto Barr Trail in the switchbacks on the front side of Rocky Mountain during last month's storms. May and McArdell climb the Manitou Springs Incline once a week and finished the round-trip adventure just before the storm hit that washed the boulder onto the trail. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

New and shiny almost always trump old and familiar. New trails constructed over the past couple of years in Ute Valley Park and Red Rock Canyon Open Space are exciting additions offering variety and new challenges.

But let's take a moment to pay tribute to one of the region's most popular and venerable trails on its centennial.

Fred Barr started building the 13.1-mile Barr Trail by hand 100 years ago, designing it so burros could carry tourists to the top of Pikes Peak.

Eventually adventurers came from all over the world to attempt the challenging elevation gain of 7,415 feet to reach the 14,115-foot summit.

The trail was completed in 1921, and Barr Camp was built the next year. Most people who hike to the top of America's Mountain use Barr Trail, and the path attracts some of the world's elite runners for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.

But the legalization and increased popularity of the Manitou Incline has put more pressure on the lower portion of the Barr Trail, as Incline users turn to the trail for their descent.

As we promote our mountain and region as a "world-class outdoor recreation destination," foot traffic on the Barr Trail is bound to increase.

Maintaining the trail is neither cheap nor easy. The Rocky Mountain Field Institute shares that task with Friends of the Peak.

Manitou Springs has made sizeable financial contributions to maintenance projects in past years, but not this year. So Incline Friends is making up some of the shortfall, and the RMFI is seeking more grants.

The bottom line is: A trail of such value to hikers and runners worldwide deserves world-class attention. Caring for one of the region's most popular trails should be a no-brainer. Especially given its many decades of service.

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Susan Davies is executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

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