Colorado Springs: Utilities still working on plan to open the south side of Pikes Peak to recreation

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Update: More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Monday, the city-owned utility released its long-awaited “concept plan” for public access to the area, which is home to several reservoirs built from 1878 to 1912. A public meeting will be held tonight , and Utilities is taking comments through Feb. 26. Under the proposal, Utilities would not allow camping, ATVs, hunting, rock climbing, fishing in streams or ice-fishing in the south slope watershed…

“This is the conceptual plan. It is not final. This is just what we’re putting out there to get public feedback on,” said Kirsta Scherff-Norris, a Utilities wildlife biologist. The area is mostly pristine, with one road in, and Utilities aims to keep it that way. Under the proposal, Utilities would not allow camping, ATVs, hunting, rock climbing, fishing in streams or ice-fishing in the south slope watershed. The main access would be from a trail head at Mason Reservoir, a half-mile past what is now a locked gate on Forest Service Road 376. The proposal calls for the construction of two trails, a 5.6-mile trail along the west side of Mason Reservoir, to Boehmer Reservoir and back, for foot and equestrian use only, with a parking lot and bathrooms, and a trail from where the national forest trail 667 currently ends to Lake Moraine, for foot, horse and bicycle traffic. The Lake Moraine Trail would also connect with an existing trail that runs to the Cog Railway, but it would not have its own trail head, meaning long approaches would be required to reach the lake. A picnic area would be built at McReynolds Reservoir, and non-motorized boats would be allowed in the reservoir.

From KKTV.com (Lauri Martin):

The area provides 20 percent of the city’s drinking water. Parts of the 9,000 acres, that include several reservoirs, could be open as early as the summer of 2011. “Our biggest concern is balancing what we’re there to do, which is providing drinking water to our customers, as well as provide for recreational opportunities that are appropriate that don’t impact the environment,” says [Kirsta Scherff-Norris with Springs Utilities]…

Springs Utilities says if all goes as planned, they’ll present the final plan to city council by late summer. Council members will have the final say. The big question now is much this will cost and who will pay for it?[…]

Construction could begin in 2011, though officials have not determined how it will be funded. While new trails and expanded uses are possible in the future, for now Utilities is being cautious. “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,” said Scherff-Norris.

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