I was a user of the Manitou Incline before it became legal and sanitized. I climbed a couple of times a week between the start of Daylight Savings Time and June to get in shape for climbing 14ers with my kids.
Over several years, as popularity increased, I chose Tuesdays and Fridays which I deemed the best days to find parking at Barr Trailhead. Age and overuse have led me to other exercise adventures.
The past planning effort for the Incline failed to address two major issues: impacts to the Ruxton corridor by users, and future maintenance/sustainability of the tread. Ruxton traffic has always included COG use. Three hundred thousand users a year is not compatible with this neighborhood. The Incline is an attraction and should now be treated as such. It is time to re-think Incline use and to re-plan it.
A new plan should address Incline access and its impact on Ruxton. Analysis should include parking, traffic patterns and neighborhood impacts as well as routing of traffic to and from the parking area(s). Can Higginbotham Flats be used for parking with a shuttle? Can the old railroad bed be used for parking with access from the west end? Should the shuttle be discontinued but parking permitted at Hiawatha Gardens so that Incline users can “warm up” on their walk to the start of the Incline? These and other ides should be explored.
Incline long-term maintenance should be a part of any new planning effort.
The operator should budget for maintenance annually, along with an operations budget that includes policing.
1. Prepare an Incline Master Plan Update. Analyze and discuss access, parking, sustainability of the tread, and policing responsibilities.
Formalize a new intergovernmental agreement that covers resolved issues.
2. Implement an Incline Enterprise. The Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department is good at this. (Cemeteries, golf courses, Pikes Peak Highway, North and South Slope fishing areas are all Enterprises).
3. Find an operator for the enterprise. The COG and Adventures Out West are potential operators, and there are likely others who would be interested.
4. Charge a fee for use. The fee will need to cover operations and maintenance. The fee could also cover parking and shuttle service if they are a part of the revised plan and program.
5. Keep Incline traffic off Ruxton. Look at other alternatives for access and parking.
6. In addition to building the return trail north of the Incline, it is essential for distancing and for the impact to the Barr Trail to add a return trail from the Incline summit.
7. Reconfigure parts of the Incline to make it more interesting.
This could be done by adding small steps in places and by making bigger steps in other places. Also there could be deviations from the current steps to go around large boulders or around some trees. Put informational signs along these pull-offs.
8. Seek grants for capital expenditures. GOCO has invested in the Incline. They should help resolve issues.
9. Do not rely on volunteers to accomplish objectives.
Volunteers provide a great service but it is questionable if volunteerism is sustainable in the long term.
10. Do not allow downhill users. It may be necessary to enforce this dictate or to physically prohibit downhill use with a revised design at the top.
John Maynard is a Manitou Springs resident, professional land use planner and former Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Board Member.