Hikers will no longer be able to trespass on the Manitou Incline. That's because beginning Friday (Feb. 1) hiking up the old railway bed will be legal.
The Manitou Springs City Council gave the final approval for opening the popular trail on Tuesday.
What began as a railway to transport material for an old water line, will now officially be recognized as one of the most popular trails in the U.S.
"This day as been long awaited and opening the Incline has been an amazing process to watch," said Bill Beagle of the Incline Friends committee. "I speak for myself and for the members of Incline Friends when I offer my sincere congratulations to all who worked to make this happen. A legal Incline is something that the people of the Pikes Peak Region deserve."
The process began in 2009 with the formation of the Manitou Incline Task Force - representatives from Colorado Springs Utilities, The Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the Forest Service, Manitou Springs residents and others - which began forming the Manitou Incline Site Development and Management Plan.
At its core, the plan identified 13 key steps to complete before the Incline could be made legal. After four years and a lot of hard work, those required steps have been taken.
Colorado Springs City Council gave its final approval earlier this month. Councilman Scott Hente who pushed hard for opening the trail said it's time to climb it legally.
"I am anxious to climb the Incline," Hente said. "I think I am one of the only hikers in town not doing the Incline lately!"
There are big challenges ahead for the Incline Friends group, a nonprofit organization formed in the spring of 2011. Incline Friends is dedicated to making the Incline sustainable and open to the public and has hosted fund raising events and organized volunteer work days.
Steve Bremner, president of Incline Friends, said there is plenty of work still to be done. Now that the Incline is legal, repairs, maintanence and trail building can begin. But fund raising is the top priority.
"The opening of the Incline is the start of the next phase in the saga," Bremner said "Now we have to raise $1 Million to make badly needed repairs."
Much of the Incline will require little or no work. But large sections will need to be repaired.
The opening will mark an historic day for all who love the Manitou Incline. Gaining about 2,000 feet elevation over one mile, the Incline had been climbed illegally as many as 350,000 times each year. It is, perhaps, the most unique and challenging trail in the country, attracting runners and cyclists to military personnel to soccer moms.
More than anything, the Incline is famous for dishing out a tough workout.
"I can’t think of any particular workout, route, or activity that forces you to push your boundaries quite like the Incline does," said Cameron Chambers, national mountain bike champion. "Redlined - that is the only word I can think of when describing the workout the incline gives you."
An open Incline is crucial to a region that takes great pride in the active lifestyles of its residents, said Incline Friends committee member Tim Bergsten.
"As a community I think we've made a statement that living healthfully is important to us," he said.
Please visit InclineFriends.com for updated information about the Manitou Incline.