WASHINGTON — Hikers of the popular “vertical mile” trail at the foot of Pikes Peak made a giant step toward legal respectability under legislation President Obama signed into law last Friday.
The law allows the United States Forest Service to accept railroad companies’ surrender of the right of way at a steep incline on Mount Manitou in central Colorado.
If as expected the Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs city councils approves a plan to maintain the trail later this month, hikers could not be prosecuted for trespassing.
“I am happy to say that outdoor enthusiasts can soon hike the incline with complete confidence that they are no longer trespassing,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) said in a statement.
“The president’s signature on this makes it official — we’re one step closer to allowing hikers to take advantage of this unique trail in a safe manner while not being considered trespassers,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said in a press release.
The Manitou Incline draws an estimated half a million visitors a year for its breathtaking views of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak as well as for the daunting physical challenge of climbing up 2,011 feet in one mile. Made of dirt and railroad ties, the trail has not been abandoned formally for use as a railroad bed.
Yet trains have not traversed its steep ascent in more than a generation. Adult hikers have taken their place, and the legal limbo has sowed confusion among tourists and residents alike. “No Trespassing” signs pepper the route to this day.
Residents of Manitou Springs have complained that the hikers cause traffic and parking headaches in town. But the city council approved a key legal hurdle last February and is expected to open the trail legally this month.
Obama’s signature of H.R. 4073 also represented a big win for Lamborn. The bill is the first stand-alone measure the congressman has sponsored that became law.