Plans for Ring the Peak Local Loop Finalized
By Bob Volpe
The long sought dream of outdoor enthusiasts to have a trail that circumvents Pikes Peak has finally come to fruition, at least on paper.
It’s still unclear, though, when the final trail will get completed.
After months of negotiation and meetings and the completion of a study, an agreement has been reached with the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor that will close the last remaining gap section of the proposed Ring the Peak Trail. A considerable amount of planning has gone into this process between the Trails and Open Space Coalition, (TOSC) the cities of Cripple Creek, Victor, national forest officials, wildlife officials, a variety of trail user groups, and private landowners.
The agreed upon route, called the “community route,” is the one trail advocates placed on the very bottom of their wish list to close the seven mile (as the crow flies) gap, but staunch resistance from Cripple Creek and Victor officials, who were worried about protecting their reservoirs, closed the door on the preferred routes by trail and open space advocates.
Originally the trail was estimated at about 70 miles. However, the new route adds nearly 40 miles of trail. Now the route will dip almost completely off the peak and go through the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, circling the Newmont Mine.
Cripple Creek and Victor had a number of objections to the routes the TOSC preferred. The most contentious objection was the proposed route that would have put the trail within spitting distance of the cities’ water supply. Both cities’ officials argued that route was a deal breaker. Former Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray DuBois told TMJ News previously that, “Without those reservoirs Cripple Creek doesn’t exist. We don’t oppose the trail itself. The city is also concerned that there is an increased danger of wildfire.”
The Cripple Creek reservoirs are not open to the public; however, the Timberline Fishing Club holds a lease to the lakes for their members’ enjoyment. The fishing club currently has 450 members, who pay an annual fee of $250 per-year for the right to fish the reservoirs.
The club pays the city of Cripple Creek $13,000 for a renewable 10-year lease. The club stocks the lakes with trout and has a caretaker on site that polices the area.
Debra Downs, the city administrator of Victor, also expressed concerns about the trail coming close to its drinking water sources. She said, “We are absolutely against the proposed route going near the reservoirs. We don’t want a lot of people endangering our water resources with
trash, and a potential fire hazard.”
As is the case with the Cripple Creek reservoirs, Victor’s Bison reservoirs are leased to a private fishing club that does have access to the lakes. The Gold Camp Fishing Club leases the fishing rights and
the rights to two cabins on the reservoir property for $1 a year.
You must be a Victor property owner, live within the city limits, and pay a city water bill to become a member. Members pay a fee of $125 per year membership fee. There are currently 350 members of the club.
Further complicating the preferred high on the peak options occurred when the trail group proposed rerouting the trail above the city’s reservoirs. This route would have run the trail through big horn sheep
lambing areas and Parks and Wildlife officials said no way.
Left with their only remaining option, TOSC agreed to work with the cities. Chris Lieber, of NES (a land planning, landscape architecture, and urban design firm in Colorado Springs), who
spearheaded the effort to fill the gap, as part of an official study, said the result was not what many trail advocates. expected. But he stated that the TOSC will now work with the cities to get the trail done. He added, “But I think to move to a place where stakeholders are excited about this route and communities are excited about this route, it’s a good thing.”
The agreed upon route provides access to both towns of Victor and Cripple Creek and could provide economic benefits to the towns, as well as being a year round access option that would allow users to
connect to the Gold Camp Road portion of the trail that already exists.
Trail Won’t Get Built Overight
This agreement doesn’t mean the trail will be completed anytime soon.
There are major issues with private land owners to be hashed out. Regarding the city’s alternative route agreement Paul Mead with Friends of the Peak said, “Our problem with going below the reservoirs, in the Gillette Flats area, is there are a lot of land owners and other private interests down there. Each time you add another entity to have to negotiate with, it adds more and more layers
of issues that need to be addressed.”
The goal now is to minimize the need to deal with landowners as much as possible and build the trail away from roads, but still parallel to them, possibly on CDOT easements.
Cripple Creek and Victor officials see this agreement as a way to boost both cities’ economy. Town leaders in both communities have tried to highlight the availability of more recreational pursuits in the last few years.
Whether that pans out or not remains to be seen, but the trail system being built around the Newmont mine and the cities will attract people who are history, geology, and mining buffs.
The trails will also be an attraction for people during the fall aspen season.