Today the Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved the Manitou Incline Plan. After Sarah Bryarly, interim design, development and Trails, Open Space and Parks manager for the Colorado Springs parks department, gave a presentation there was very little discussion.
Councilman Bernie Herpin said there were only 2 questions in the many of emails he received asking him to vote for the Manitou Incline Plan. The 2 questions were why only dawn to dusk hiking and no dogs.
Bryarly said the dawn to dusk hiking rule was for safety and consistent with the city parks and open spaces. She said it would be harder on rescuers if someone were to get injured at night.
She said at the public meetings for every one that wanted dogs there was someone that didn’t. However at the October 21st, 2010 public meeting it was about 20 people that wanted dogs for every one that didn’t. The Incline Friends is to look into having “dog days” on the Incline. That just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
Councilman Sean Paige asked some questions about the budget for the project. He thought that a robust donation box that vandals couldn’t break in to would be good. The Manitou Incline Plan lists several possible sources of grants. Bryarly also said that they plan to use TOPS money for engineering plans on how best to stabilize the ties that are in the worst shape. It’s possible more TOPS money could be used in the future.
Councilman Scott Hente, who used to hike the Incline and has pushed the plan forward, talked some about why he thought it was such a great idea. He said many tourists to the area know about it and he said he had met people from all around the world while hiking it.
Hente made a motion to approve the Manitou Incline Plan. The public was given an opportunity to comment on the plan. No one had comments so the vote was taken and was unanimous for it.
The long climb to legalizing hiking the Manitou Incline still is far from over though. Next up are 3 more public meetings in Manitou Springs. They are
- Manitou Springs Open Space Advocacy Meeting – Feb. 28
- Manitou Springs Planning Commission – March 9
- Manitou Springs City Council meeting – March 29
As long as the plan moves forward with those 3 meetings, the Forest Service will go through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The NEPA process often takes 2 years to complete. In this case they don’t have to try figuring out what the environmental impact will be. All they have to do is go up the Incline and see it. Because of this, the Forest Service says they can get through the process in 6 months. That’s still not fast enough for Hente and he wishes they’d be done in 3 months or less.
After a few failed attempts over the years, the Manitou Incline appears close to being a legal hike. In the meantime, it’s expected that thousands of athletes, hikers and tourists will continue trespassing to take on the Incline challenge.