Off-limits area of Pikes Peak could open to public
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A remote area on the south slope of Pikes Peak could open to the public for the first time in more than a century.
Colorado Springs Utilities has proposed to allow hiking, picnicking and some fishing and bicycling in the 15,000-acre area. The land is home to several reservoirs built from 1878 to 1912.
In a plan released Monday, the utility suggested no new roads into the remote area. Instead, the plans call for building two new trails, plus a picnic area.
Camping, motorized all-terrain vehicles and hunting would not be allowed. The utility has not said how the construction would be paid for or when it would be complete.
“This is just what we’re putting out there to get public feedback on,” Kirsta Scherff-Norris, a Utilities wildlife biologist, told The (Colorado Springs) Gazette.
Pikes Peak is believed to be the second-most visited mountain behind Japan’s Mount Fuji. But much of the south slope of the mountain is off-limits to visitors. At the urging of outdoors enthusiasts, Colorado Springs Utilities has been studying how to allow public access to the 15,000-acre area for a decade.
A public hearing on the plan was scheduled for Tuesday night. Written public comments on the plan can be made through Feb. 26.
Not everyone is thrilled with the utility’s proposal. Some hikers have complained that the proposal falls short of a longtime goal – a trail network that would allow hikers to make a complete loop around Pikes Peak. Instead, the utility has suggested two separate, non-connecting trails.
“I am very disappointed that there was no discussion, no mention of the Ring the Peak connection through the south slope,” said Eric Swab, a member of the Friends of the Peak nonprofit.
Susan Davies, executive director of the nonprofit Trails and Open Space Coalition, also said the plan should be revised to form a loop of trails. The utility has said the trail routes were chosen to protect bighorn sheep.
“I think we can really appreciate the fact there’s a real sensitivity to the environment up there, but it would seem there might be a chance to make those trails connect,” Davies told The Gazette.
Scherff-Norris said that more trails on the parcel could be possible in the future.
“It’s been closed for 100 years, and we want to make sure we open it in a responsible way that protects our infrastructure and also the environment,” Scherff-Norris said.
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