Controversy arises over bench atop Manitou Springs Incline

Parks leader: Manitou Incline tribute bench must come down

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - The first test of the new government authority of the Manitou Incline will be over a bench meant to honor a slain soldier and his wife.

Dan Lewis, a board member on the city of Colorado Springs Parks and Advisory Board, objects to plans that went public Thursday to remove the bench.

"I'm concerned that it's insensitive and against common sense," said Lewis.

Karen Palus, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services for the City of Colorado Springs, told the board that the removal of the bench is a joint decision between the city and the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service owns the land but the park is maintained by Colorado Springs.

Palus said those who assembled the bench did it without getting permits.

"It's unfortunate that they did this without getting permission first," said Palus.  

The bench was carried up the Incline in pieces by friends of David and Whitney Dunlap. They said it's meant to honor the Fort Carson soldier and his pregnant wife who were killed in their home in January during a break-in. David Dunlap was a staff sergeant and helicopter mechanic for Fort Carson's combat aviation brigade. His wife was pregnant at the time of the murder.

Ted Smith, who participated in the Incline haul, said the project took close to five hours and 40 people to complete. The bench weighs 1,000 pounds according to Smith.

Many users found the tribute touching.

"It's not like it's some garish thing," said Robin Theryoung. "Its a beautiful bench that serves a purpose for people to sit on and I don't see how it's hurting anyone."

Lewis said the removal of the bench goes against the spirit of the popular hiking trail.

"I understand that not everyone can place a bench up the Incline but the reasoning is pure behind it and the work was already done," said Lewis. "The intent is to put four more benches on the Incline so it doesn't make sense that this one has to come down."

According to Lewis, Friends of the Incline are planning to put those benches up but the application process is still a few months away. He feels removing the Dunlap bench would be counterproductive.

"One of the things I was concerned about with the recent legalization of the Incline was over-regualtion by the Forest Service, by Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services and by the cities that were involved in making it legal," said Lewis.

Palus said she'd like to talk with those behind the tribute about going through the proper channels for putting a bench on the Incline but has been unable to.

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