In a virtual Manitou Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, a motion to reopen the Incline with a free reservation system was passed on a 5-2 vote.
This action to reopen the trail was achieved by approving a Memorandum of Understanding with Colorado Springs, which will operate and manage the reservation system. Manitou Public Works are maintaining the Hiawatha parking lot, and installing parking kiosks.
The Incline was closed to the public in late March because of coronavirus concerns. This plan hopes to reopen the trail while regulating the number of people allowed on it at one time. The free reservation system would allow 35 people on the trail per 30-minute window for the first two weeks of operation. Then, it would allow 45 people per 30-minute window in the weeks following.
News5 met a family visiting from Iowa who hiked part of the Incline on Tuesday, despite it being closed. "It would be disappointing if we came here and wanted to do the Incline, and do the trail, and not be able to do that because we didn't have a reservation... Conversely, I think, you know, we went up the Incline today when there weren't a lot of people on the incline, and that was really nice because you could stop and rest without a lot of people around," said Sarah Murphy.
There were several concerns voiced by Manitou Springs City Councilmembers, including which city will pay for the shuttle system transporting hikers from the parking lot to the trailhead. Currently, Manitou Springs is responsible for funding that, but councilmembers said they would prefer Colorado Springs to bankroll it.
They also spoke about if locals will be responsible for providing proof of parking, and how the porta potties will be cleaned.
News5 also spoke with one woman who said she has lived in Manitou Springs for around 17 years. "Reservations, probably, are in any way ridiculous... As far as the locals and the people that are the bread and butter of tax and the community and have built their lifetime here, that's special to them, and you take that away and then you're only having open slots for reservations here and there, you're going to kill the spirit of Manitou," said Julie, who preferred to only use her first name.
The access to the Incline would be from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, and reservations could be made up to a week in advance. Unless a person arrives on a bicycle or on foot, anyone who wants to hike the Incline must prove they parked at Hiawatha Gardens or the Iron Springs Chateau (provided the Iron Springs Chateau implements a parking system). A wristband would be required for hiking the trail.
Reservations would be made through an online system, facilitated by Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs can also enforce the hours allowed on the trail, potentially using deputy officers from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Colorado Springs authorizes Manitou Springs to issue trespass citations to people who are found not to be following the free reservation system. However, one of the concerns of Manitou Springs councilmembers was ensuring their police department has the capability to enforce the reservation system.
Terms in the memorandum of understanding can be amended and changed as long as both parties agree.
The free reservation system will stay in place until both cities agree to a long-term solution. There's no set timeline on when this will all be up and running, but News5 will keep you updated on when a reservation can be made online.
After a nearly five-month closure under an emergency declaration by the City of Manitou Springs due to COVID-19, the Incline is now set to reopen and for that we are very excited! The Manitou Springs City Council voted tonight to reopen the Incline under the terms of a joint memorandum of understanding between our cities. The requirement of a free online reservation system will help manage the number of visitors, and we want to take this opportunity to thank Incline users for their patience and continued patronage of this incredible trail that is such an asset to our region. We will have more information detailing the free online reservation system tomorrow. We will continue to work closely with Manitou Springs to make the Incline experience positive for everyone now and into the future.