Incline now legal, offers free shuttle service from Manitou

March 4, 2013

Jonathan Toman
[email protected]

A “no trespassing sign” that stood at the bottom of the Incline in Manitou Springs is no longer necessary. As of Feb. 1, hiking the Incline is officially legal.

The city of Colorado Springs, specifically the parks department, has been the “driving force for the effort that has lead us to where we are today, which is legally opening the Incline,” according to Marc Snyder, mayor of Manitou Springs.

Javier Pineda, a freshman political science major and Spanish minor, has never done the Incline and didn’t know it was illegal.

“No, I didn’t; I thought it was totally legal, to be honest,” he said. “Since everybody did it, I thought it was totally legal.”

Pineda, originally from Frisco, Colo., exemplifies many Incline users in that he “would’ve done it even before it was legal – it’s just going out to have some fun and challenge yourself.”

One of the options to mitigate costs associated with the Incline, such as emergency responders and maintenance, was to charge money for people to use it. The city of Colorado Springs, however, wanted it open and free to use.

This dilemma led to a license agreement for the Barr Trail parking lot between Colorado Springs Utilities and the city of Manitou Springs.

Manitou would have to maintain and construct needed changes on the lot but would then have access to the revenue generated from a $5 flat fee for people to park there.

The money gained from the Barr lot will be used to help run the new free shuttle to the Incline, running 6 a.m. to 6 p.m, May 19 through Sep. 9 for the next two summers.

The shuttle will run from the Tajine Alami parking lot on the east side of Manitou, through town – hitting all the normal bus stops along the way – up Ruxton Avenue to the Incline.

Parking has been a problem for the city of Manitou Springs. Visitors can ride the shuttle or pay for parking downtown closer to the Incline. Not everyone in Manitou is a fan of paid parking, but Snyder explained the reasoning.

“By the end of Summer 2014, we’ll have a good feel for whether or not the shuttle is accomplishing what we want,” he said.

“We have a free option … so if you’re really offended by paid parking, you can park down here all day, all night and ride the shuttle to your heart’s content,” Snyder said.

“Instead of trying to get all these cars into such a restricted downtown, let’s see if we can’t get people parking over here.”

Snyder believes the best option for UCCS students coming over to Manitou to run Barr Trail or do the Incline is the shuttle.

“I think absolutely, especially [for] students who don’t usually have tons of disposable income,” he said. “By and large, if you want to park up on Ruxton near the Incline, you’re gonna pay at least $5, and, you know, if you’re a frequent user, that adds up.”

The process to legalize the Incline has been a long time coming, due in part to the “multi-jurisdictional headache” caused by the many stakeholders of the Incline, which include the U.S. Forest Service, Cog Railway, Colorado Springs Utilities and the cities of Manitou and Colorado Springs.

The current effort to legalize the Incline began when the Colorado Springs Parks put together a proposal that included a timeline and work plan to facilitate the process, and Manitou Springs City Council put together and adopted an Incline Site Development and Management Plan.

“The key for us was to have a responsible party take over responsibility for the Incline,” said Snyder. That party soon became the Colorado Springs Parks, who took over 100 percent of the responsibility for maintenance and liability.

After a brief scare that it had been stolen, the “no trespassing” sign that used to be on the Incline will be placed in the Pioneers Museum, a symbol of a different time.

As far as what will be different, Snyder anticipated changes to both Barr Trail and the Incline. “It should be a lot safer, and a lot more stable as far as the physical condition of the Incline,” he said.

Rehabilitation on critical areas of the Incline has begun, although none are volunteers as it is considered too dangerous.

$40,000 from the Barr Trail lot money has been allocated to rehabilitate the lower Barr Trail, which has taken “a horrible beating,” according to Snyder.

Now that it is legal, businesses in Manitou can begin to find ways to capitalize on the Incline.

“It’s incumbent on us to find a way to get those Incline users to stop off in town,” said Snyder. “Now it’s really time to start promoting this thing as another wonderful amenity in the Pikes Peak Region.”