It's no secret, since the February 2013 legalization of the Manitou Springs Incline, many changes have occurred. The first and most noticeable was that you have to pay to park everywhere, which can cost anywhere from $2-$5 a trip. The second is that it's constantly packed. Even folks that go early (4-6am) and would never see another soul their whole trip, are now seeing a handful or more hikers. On a busy weekend day, the Incline can see 1,500-2000 sets of feet. According to the Incline Friends, in a span of 11 days in July, an activity counter tallied up 15,000 total users. Most of these were up-only travelers which if 2,000 in any given day, equals 4,000 feet trampling the trails and a little over 166 people per hour average from 8am-8pm. Which brings me to my third most noticeable change in the Incline: erosion. Hiking up every week, I haven't noticed too much of a trash or dog poop problem (BTW...it is not recommended to bring fido) so kudos to those of you helping us keep the trail clean. However, erosion is running rampant there and it's partly due to the recent monsoon-like weather but also to the huge increase in traffic. With numbers the way they are, the Incline is on track to see well over 200,000 hikers this year.
Some effort to curb the issues has been noticed, albeit minimal and not really effective. Its not really clear where the maintenance comes from but Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation is mainly the ones that are in charge. From the looks of it, not much has been done. Here are some photos of the maintenance:
Duct tape covers sharp edges, lasted for a few weeks.
A rough mix of chicken wire, burlap and sandbags. Most of these sandbags end up being washed down the side of the incline when it rains.
"L bracket" held to a board with nails comes undone.
Scattered nails hold nothing in place but pose a hazard for hikers coming down on the right side by getting caught in shoes.
But maintenance isn't just an easy task. It takes money, a lot of money, estimated at $1,467,694, and also permits and the work has to be done by professionals. According to the Manitou Incline Site Development and Management Plan, a US Forest Service "special use permit" must grant authorization to the City of Colorado Springs to "manage and maintain the Incline within Pike National Forest." This is part of a multiple-stage plan to maintain the popular trail. Another group, The Incline Friends group is dedicated to making the Incline sustainable and open to the public and is currently raising money to help the process along. They organize clean-up days as well as raise much needed funds to support the care of the trail.
Help us keep it open, sustainable and maintained: There are a variety of ways in which you can help keep the Incline open and in good condition.
"Buck UP for the Incline"-Donate a $1 each trip you head up the steps. Incline Friends has a donation tube at the the base of the Incline for that purpose. Basically, if about 1,000 head up each day for a month, that's around $30,000 in much needed funds that could be going right back to fixing each step you take. According to the Friends, "If one out of every three trips generated a dollar, we’d be on our way to amassing the funds that could help us in applying for some pretty sizable state grants." You can also become an Incline Friends member!!
Skip the parking, ride the shuttle - There is a FREE shuttle service from Memorial Park to the Incline. It will continue each day until September 7 of this year, then pick back up again in May, 2014. The shuttle runs daily every 20 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and every 30 minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. From Old Mans Trail next to the park, there is free parking behind the Tajine Alami restaurant. Incline Friends said that "in a 57 day period, 11,914 people took advantage of the free service. The shuttle is averaging 210 riders per day or 17 riders an hour."
Lend a hand- On Saturday, September 14, Incline Friends will have a clean-up day. Helpers are encouraged to come with gloves, sunscreen, water, etc. They will also be doing any necessary repair work on social trails that have been closed. Check in at 7:30am, the fun begins at 8am.
Reduce your footprint, avoid at high traffic times - This weekend (August 17-18) is the Pikes Peak Ascent (Saturday) and Marathon (Sunday). Runners will be coming up Ruxton (street will be closed for a few hours in the morning) and head up Barr Trail to the summit. Even though they wont be on the Incline itself, Barr trail will be packed and is intended to be open to racers only that weekend. Another way to help reduce erosion is to avoid hiking it right after a rain storm. The impact of feet causes the moist, loose granite to keep slip sliding down the hill. Pack out what you pack in and also, leave the dog at home.
Make it fun and enjoyable for everyone - This one is best described from the Incline Friends: "Please remember to respect the rules of the Incline, they were put in place for good reasons. We ask that you not bring dogs along for your workout and recommend that you do not descend the Incline. You will see a lot of people coming down the Incline but you must remember that this is an extreme trail and if you aren’t sure of what you are doing, best to continue on from the top of the incline, over the hill and connect up with the Barr Trail about a half mile west of the Incline. The bushwhack trail immediately to the left of the top of the Incline gets worse every week between the heavy traffic and recent heavy rains that this path has endured. Please do not cut trails and if you see people doing so, politely remind them of the great damage they are doing to the area. Bushwhacking on those steep slopes is leading to severe erosion."
UpaDowna has decided to reduce our impact on the Incline by only having our "Incline Happy Hour" once a month on the last Thursday of every month. That puts August's event on Thursday, Aug. 29th. We have a "sign-up/check-in" at the base of the Incline from 5:30-6:15pm. After 10 "sign-ins" with UpaDowna, you are eligible for prizes! After we hike we meet up at Kinfolks for happy hour beer specials around 7:30pm. Hope to see you there!