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Future of Waldo Canyon trail uncertain

Popular trail closed since 2012 wildfire

Special report: Future of Waldo Canyon trail uncertain

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Exclusive and spectacular drone video of the Waldo Canyon burn scar broadcast by KRDO NewsChannel 13 this week doesn't include the finer details of damage to a popular hiking trail in the area.

The six-mile Waldo Canyon trail has been closed since the wildfire in June 2012 just west of Colorado Springs.

Many hikers are asking why it hasn't reopened and wonder if it will ever again be accessible.

"I'm just hoping in my lifetime, I can still go back there again, because it was a lovely hike," said Barbara Bamberger.

Jennifer Peterson, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, said the trail still isn't safe for a variety of reasons.

The RMFI supervisors volunteers for trail restoration.

"This is a unique situation because the trail was first damaged by the fire, then by flash flooding," Peterson said.  "Parts of the trail are gone, others are covered under many feet of sediment."

Peterson said volunteers have stabilized parts of the trail to protect them from erosion and future flooding, but the most seriously damaged sections should be moved above low-lying areas prone to flooding.

"Right now we're doing work on other parts of the burn scar," she said.  "There's really nothing more we can do for the trail until the Forest Service decides on a long-range plan."

Peterson said falling burned trees present another danger to hikers, and the trail's parking lot along U.S. 24 needs improvement.

"It's not necessarily the best location," she said.  "It's one of several logistic challenges with the trail."

So far the Forest Service has announced no plans for the trail's future.

In the absence of regular maintenance and foot traffic from hundreds of hikers, grasses and weeds have grown high on the trail and many sections are covered with leaves, sediment and other debris.

Susan Davies, executive director of the local Trails and Open Space Coalition , says the Waldo Trail stands out from the area's many other trails.

"I think it was a favorite because it was challenging, it was lovely, it offered great views and it had a different feel to it," she said.

A surveillance camera and posted signs enforce the trail's closure.

Hikers can only wait for some kind of plan for the trail, and wonder who started the fire that closed this outdoor gem.

"The fire started less than 20 feet from the trail," Davies said.  "Do I think it will reopen one day?  Absolutely.  Do I think it will take years?  Yes."

The trail story is the final part of a series updating the burn scar five years since the wildfire.

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