~ By Bob Volpe ~
The long sought after dream of trail enthusiasts to have a trail that
circumvents Pikes Peak has finally come to fruition. Well, not really,
but an agreement has been reached with the towns of Cripple Creek and
Victor that will close the last remaining section of the Ring the Peak
Trail. Years of negotiations and planning have 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 7
mile (as the crow flies) gap, but staunch resistance from Cripple
Creek and Victor officials put the kabash on the preferred routes.
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 Debois told TMJ
News 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 wild fire.”
The Cripple Creek reservoirs are not open to the public; however, the
Timberline Fishing Club holds a lease to the lakes for its member’s
enjoyment. The fishing club currently has 450 members, who pay an
annual fee of $250.00 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, Victor City Administrator, 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
rights to two cabins on the reservoir property for $1.00 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 $125.00
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 bighorn 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 said the result was not what
was expected, but said 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
This agreement doesn’t mean the trail will be completed anytime soon.
There are major issues with private landowners 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. 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
~ By Bob Volpe ~