Shanti’s editorials

NEW POSSIBILITY FOR A MANITOU INCLINE TRAIL (May 2016 )

Stakeholders should support the expansion of the environmental/route study of a northern Manitou Incline Trail (already awarded to Tapis Associates) to include two routes: the narrow 9% to10% grade route on the steep hillside near the Incline  and  the wider multi-use 8% to 9% grade route on a less severe hillside to the Walton’s property on Manitou Ave.    In the long run we may end up building both routes or finding a compromise  route that combine the advantages of both planned routes and/or  both trailheads.  While  the cost of an expanded study would perhaps be a little more now,  it will save tens of thousands of dollars compared to two separate studies.  It will also save years of decision making without all the facts. We need a solution to Ruxton Avenue congestion as soon as possible.

Greg Wellens of Adventures Out West in Manitou Springs is working with property owners (Waltons) at the west end of Manitou to proposing  a new parking lot and trail-head for a new northern trail to the top of the Manitou Incline. Imagine one day, people could park their car, hop a shuttle bus  (or walk a new trail along the old Midland railway) to the Incline base, climb it and then return via a beautiful new trail back to their car.  Imagine, mountain bikers challenging themselves on a 9% grade trail, which accesses trails from the Pikes Peak Highway to North Cheyenne Canyon.   A sustainable multi-use trail to our western wilderness  has so many benefits  to residents, businesses and tourist alike.   A new trail-head and parking lot on Manitou Avenue will be so helpful with Manitou Springs’ traffic congestion,  especially when the population of our area has topped a million people in a few decades.

  The landowners and property developers of this project have already had a public meeting to get input and have made adaptions.  Citizens wanted the western entrance of Manitou to be attractive and to put the paid public parking lot more out of sight.    However a paid parking lot only makes sense if there is a trail and trail-head.   The developers will need to know that the public and the various governmental entities are supportive of the trail plan.  Otherwise, they will use their land to develop commercial and residential buildings.  Then the opportunity to have a new trail-head away from Ruxton Avenue could be gone forever!  
Here are some of the reasons I believe it is important to secure this new trail route to a trail-head near Manitou Avenue as soon as possible:

  • The Trail would alleviate some of the parking and traffic congestion on Ruxton Avenue.
  • The Trail would better service Manitou Incline users (maybe an expanded  shuttle from the new trailhead to the base of the Incline)
  • The Trail would take “over-crowding” off of the Barr Trail, making it more sustainable and pleasurable to use
  • The Trail would be a new way to access Barr Camp, Pikes Peak and all the trails west of Manitou for runners, bikers and hikers  ( this is not just about the Incline)
  • The Trail would be built to modern sustainability standards, saving lots of time and money for maintenance
  • Having a trail easement down to Manitou Avenue keeps future option of trail routes open.
  • The Parking Lot would provide more parking for the whole city and would keep some traffic congestion away from the Ruxton round-about and downtown.
  • It will create a new world-class trail like the Iron Mountain Trail
  • It will be easier to write grants and get money because it meets so many needs
  • It will/can  be years faster to completion because of wider support (2 to 4 years) and more possibilities for grant funding.
  • A Manitou Avenue trail and trailhead could be much cheaper  to build because the property owners would build the lower part of the trail through their land and it is easier to build trail on less steep hillside slopes.
  • If the trail was about 4 feet wide, it would allow emergency personnel to reach the top of the Manitou Incline in an ATV vehicle.
  • If the trail was about 4 feet wide,  it would allow personnel to access the upper Ruxton watershed area on ATV vehicles to do fire hazard mitigation.

It is my understanding that the landowner’s property does connect to various publicly owned lands all the way to the top of the Incline.      SO, this new northern trail off the Manitou Incline is  do-able.  Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the National Forest Service (plus volunteer user groups) work together to make it happen.  CS Utilities and the National Forest Service, who own much of the upper land will need to be persuaded, perhaps by lots of citizens lobbying.  It is a long winding road to a finished trail.  We will need to do: environmental studies, intergovernmental agreements, normal governmental planning process, negotiating with property owners, arranging funding for  trail construction, designing the exact route and building the actual trail.  BUT where there is a will, there is a way!

This trail/parking plan (with a historic looking building in front) could be economically self-supporting with very little initial cost to tax payers and city governments.  The biggest one-time expense may be planning and building the trail,  which can be done efficiently if Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs work together to come up with the money.  It is a WIN-WIN situation.  It is a GREAT value for tourists, local user groups, residents, city governments and our region.  If we want to be a national leader in outdoor recreation and healthy living we need to be visionary and collaborative.  More importantly this trail and trail-head will be one of our legacies  for future generations.

Sincerely,  Shanti Toll
Manitou Springs Trail CATS  (719) 321-5354
Volunteers for conservation and community  –  Collaborations for service and enjoyment