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May 20, 2003

Old Manitou incline off-limits

Hikers wish owners would open route to public use

By TOM RAGAN - THE GAZETTE

Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

TABOO BUT TRAVELED: A "No Trespassing" sign warns hikers not to use the old incline track that carried tourists on open-air cars to the top of Mount Manitou, but it remains a popular place for hikers and athletes to do intensive training. Above, a hiker heads up the incline Monday.

MANITOU SPRINGS The old Mount Manitou incline might be a great place to train for steep ascents.

Except that itís off limits.

Commonly known as the incline, the former Mount Manitou Park and Railway Incline is 8,600 feet high. Its elevation gain is 2,100 feet. There are about 5,000 railroad ties.

If it were a ski slope, it would be a “black” run — thatís how steep it is. And thatís how potentially dangerous it is, said officials for the owners, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

The railroad track was built into the side of a mountain in the shadow of Pikes Peak in the early 1920s.

A train carted tourists to the top until a rock slide wiped out a portion of the track in the late 1980s, dealing the final blow to a business that hadnít seen a profit in years.

A few years later, the tracks were dismantled, leaving only the railroad ties. It was about that time when the hikers showed up. And they wonít leave.

On any weekend, hundreds of them, if not thousands, walk right by the “No Trespassing” sign as they start their grueling ascent.

“If they think itís such great exercise, then they should buy a stair stepper and do that in their backyard,” said an exasperated Doug Doane, general manager of the cog railway.

“Itís not that we donít want people to have fun,” he added. “We just want them to realize that itís dangerous, and weíre not going to be held liable for any injuries.”

Cog railway officials suggest hikers try the nearby Barr Trail, which is much safer, they say — and legal.

But to no avail. The hikers think they own the incline — or any sort of open space, even if the land is privately owned, Doane said.

The railway owns most of the incline; the U.S. Forest Service owns the top 1,000 feet, and the city of Colorado Springs owns a fraction of the incline near the bottom.

Cog railway officials donít want hikers parking in their lot for patrons of the train to the summit of Pikes Peak.

Matt Carpenter, a Manitou Springs resident who used to run up the incline regularly, said the owners could do more to prevent people from climbing the incline.

“The bottom line is they never cared about people going up the incline,” he said.

“They just care about running trains, and theyíre legitimately upset. And I understand that.”

If the issue is parking, there are many ways around that, Carpenter said.

A trail head could be built from the Barr Trail parking lot, where a whole network of “social trails” lead to the incline.

“I wish the incline wasnít there,” Carpenter said. “Itís an ugly thing, but the fact is it is there, so letís make it work and get some use out of it.”


Letters to the Editor

May 22, 2003

INCLINED TO FITNESS

Owners, Manitou should work together to provide access
I was thrilled to read the report regarding the Manitou Incline and the brewing battle between the community and the Cog Railway over its use as a hiking trail and training route (“Old Manitou incline off-limits,” Metro, May 20). I would like to add an additional perspective to the situation. The incline was described by local resident and Pikes Peak Marathon champion Matt Carpenter as an “ugly thing.” As an avid user of the incline and as a local sports medicine physician, I see the incline quite differently.

I see it as a famous landmark and as a local gem, which is rapidly establishing itself as one of the foremost training areas in the country. The incline has been used by many of the country’s top-level athletes. Perhaps more importantly, it has helped countless recreational athletes achieve their personal goals.

Rather than looking upon the hundreds to thousands of people who ascend the incline each week as a nuisance, the city of Manitou Springs should realize the asset which it has in its own backyard and promote it. Much in the same way Moab, Utah, used mountain biking and fitness to elevate its tourism industry, so, too, could Manitou bolster its economy. The same people who hike the incline also frequent the cafes, bakeries and shops.

The Cog Railway has for years benefited from the use of public lands to haul tourists to the top of Pikes Peak, and now it’s time for it to return the favor by selling or donating the incline to the community. This would eliminate its concern over the potential for liability. Their parking lots are already secured by fences, and the railway could profit by issuing parking passes to hikers during the off season.

It’s time for a calm dialogue to take place between the Cog Railway and the community to protect, preserve and promote this local landmark.

David L. Walden
Colorado Springs


Copyright 2003, The Gazette. All rights reserved.


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