MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - Much like hiking up the Manitou Incline, making it legal has been a long and tough journey. The final hurdles require approval from Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs city councils and, as of Friday, Congress.
Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lamborn introduced a bill addressing the fact that part of the Incline used to be owned by the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway.
"There's a law from 1875 that says that railroads can't abandon their land (and give it) back to the government without an act of Congress accepting it," said Lamborn.
His bill asks Congress for that acceptance. He said he plans to work with Sen. Michael Bennet and hopes the legislation will pass by the summer.
In the meantime, the Manitou and Colorado Springs city councils will vote Feb. 28 on an Intergovernmental Agreement to work together to manage the Incline.
"This has been years in the making," said Tim Bergsten, an executive committee member of the group Incline Friends.
He said making the Incline legal is about sustainability. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to hike it each year, and Bergsten said changes have to come before the serious injuries do.
"The Incline is falling apart," he said. "A lot of people go up and down it every day and they don't get injured, but sooner or later, those ties are going to break loose."
Incline Friends, which is dedicated to finding money and volunteers to better the Incline, said it's already raised $11,000 in donations and is working to obtain more than $500,000 in grant money. Bergsten said, even though the Incline will be made safer, it won't lose its ruggedness or become a "staircase."
"We'll soon start taking bids from companies to fix the most damaged parts, but we'll ask those companies to keep the look the way it is," said Bergsten. "So it doesn't look like a set of stairs."
The management plan drafted by the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs details how the Incline would be restored and improved. The plan would put a restroom near the trail, and says the Incline would be open from dawn until dusk and pets would not be allowed.
Manitou Springs has hired a consultant to help figure out a plan for parking. It now costs $5 to park at Barr Trail and more paid parking around the Incline is a possibility.