MANITOU SPRINGS — With the Manitou Incline still closed as Manitou Springs officials cite COVID-19 concerns, avid hikers are questioning that reasoning.
“It’s kind of like holding the incline hostage,” regular incline hiker Mark Rickman said. “Last year I was going about once a month, but I wanted to step it up this year. And I was on track to do that. And then it closed.”
Rickman is one of dozens of people who have expressed their desire for the incline to reopen now that most other trails in the state have reopened.
But Manitou Springs officials said Wednesday it’s still too soon to let hikers back on the incline.
“The COVID virus is still a concern. And I know there are people who don’t think that,” Mayor John Graham said.
He said with its worldwide popularity, along with two-way foot traffic, the Incline poses too much of a risk to open this soon.
When it comes to if he thinks the Incline will ever reopen, the mayor said factors aside from COVID-19 should be addressed.
“Well… with qualifications, yes. I really need to determine our own level of long term management.”
He said problems like overcrowding, limited parking and environmental factors have plagued the Incline for years, and the city was already in the process of coming up with a plan before the pandemic hit.
Graham said he understands people are eager to get back on the Incline, but in the meantime, they still have other options.
“There are like three other great trails around there, and those are open,” he said. “So by and large what we’ve been able to do is divert people to other trails.”
Denver-area resident John Wilson is one of those people. He and his wife periodically hike the Incline. Their most recent visit was last Saturday.
“As I pulled up and talked to the parking attendant, they said well, it’s uh ‘closed.’ But they said if you can go to Barr trail, you can actually walk the Barr trail up,” Wilson said.
The Barr Trail, which is open, runs a similar path as the incline up Pikes Peak. It connects with the incline about halfway up the mountain.
“As you walk over you get to the halfway point, you the rest point, there’s a chair there. And nobody’s there, no signs, no warning signs that say don’t continue,” Wilson said.
Despite the reported lack of signage at the point where the Barr Trail meets the Incline, city officials warn getting on the Incline at any location could still come at a cost.
“The maximum fine I believe is $2,650 and/or 90 days in jail,” Graham said. “I don’t think we’ve ever issued those kinds of penalties.”
With that in mind, Rickman is taking things into his own hands.
“We’re asking them to go ahead and open the incline,” Rickman said.
On Saturday morning, he and possibly hundreds of others plan to hike the Incline in protest of its closure.
“Every other trail in Colorado is open, this trail should be open,” Rickman said.
He said the issues city leaders want to address are valid, but have nothing to do with COVID-19.
“Those issues should be solved, and they’re tough issues. But they should not be associated with the closure,” he said
The protest hike is planned for Saturday morning at 7 a.m.