EL PASO COUNTY — All the added people using trails and open spaces in southern Colorado during the pandemic are bringing attention to an issue that will not go away when COVID-19 eases.
"We are certainly seeing more clashes,” said Trails and Open Space Coalition Executive Director Susan Davies, “People that are getting tired of the parking issues, the transportation issues, people are getting tired of the garbage.” Conflicts of interest between people using public land and the people who live nearby are intensifying.
The issue is not new with the pandemic. Disagreements like debate over the closure of the popular Incline near the small town of Manitou Springs makes it more evident. The Manitou Springs versus Incline access debate is, however, not the only one of its kind.
“Some of these little towns with budget challenges because of COVID, with limited infrastructure because they're small, they have some hard choices," said Davies. The growing number of hikers discovering trails near the small town of Green Mountain Falls has caused problems with parking and litter.
Davies says the job of advocating for trails could use some help from trail and open space users. "Better choices; park in the right place, walk along the side of the road, pick-up after yourself when it comes to trash. Really basic stuff, but it could make a world of difference."
Learning from the current situation could benefit the future. "We are one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. More visitors are going to come, more people are going to move here. We're going to have to learn how to accommodate each other," said Davies. The state's rapid growth will continue to drive this issue.