incline remains closed.JPG

A barrier has stood before the Manitou Incline since March 17 while the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs debate a future for the popular attractions. Photo by Seth Boster, The Gazette 

The Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday is set to consider reopening the Manitou Incline through a free reservation system that would limit the number of hikers allowed on the popular trail.

The council has been here before.

Representing the land-owning agency that was granted Incline management control in a 2011 intergovernmental agreement, Colorado Springs parks director Karen Palus laid out a detailed plan for no-charge bookings to local leaders in a Zoom meeting June 11.

The city of Colorado Springs would operate the system and provide staff necessary, Palus said. While some Manitou councilors stayed quiet, others fiercely opposed Palus, saying the Incline's resident municipality should be responsible for management and accusing the neighboring metro of neglecting the Incline's impact on parking and quality of life in town.

Since then, councilors have discussed the Incline in closed, executive sessions under the basis of "negotiations."

Now comes the staff-recommended memorandum of understanding to reopen the Incline.

It entails the same concept Palus presented seven weeks ago but includes stipulations related to parking. 

For the first two weeks of operation, reservations made online would be limited to 35 people every 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. After the first two weeks, that number could go up to 45 people, outlines the memorandum of understanding, requiring signatures by the mayors of Manitou and Colorado Springs.

Upon mutual consent of both cities, the understanding states hiker numbers could be altered depending on the availability of parking spaces at Hiawatha Gardens, the lot in downtown Manitou, and at Iron Springs Chateau, the private business selling spots close to the Incline's base.

In a memo to councilors, Manitou staff also recommends the free shuttle resume running from Hiawatha Gardens "since the capacity calculations for the Incline reservation system were based on the shuttle operating." The parking lot was being resealed and restriped this week.

The memorandum of understanding reads: "It is the intent of the Parties that the reservation system limit access to the number of people that can be reasonably served by the available parking at Hiawatha Gardens and the Iron Springs Chateau."

The proposed agreement calls for hikers to provide proof of parking at either of those two places, "unless they arrive on foot or by bicycle." Hikers would be issued wristbands and be advised to wear them throughout their time on the Incline.

Under the proposal, the city of Colorado Springs would provide enforcement with "Incline attendants" and possibly El Paso County Sheriff's deputies.

The deal states Manitou would be able to issue trespassing citations to anyone using the Incline without a reservation or during hours when the Incline is closed.

The reservation system would remain in place for as long as Manitou's COVID-19 emergency declaration remains. That was ordered March 17. Ever since a barrier has stood at the foot of the railroad ties climbing nearly 2,000 feet up the mountain.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

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