Chapter 4: “The first workday: An ‘unreal energy level’ ”

(first published in Foot Notes, Fall/Winter issue, 2003 – Volume 14, Number 2)

by Kenyon Jordan


            One of my goofier recollections leading up to the inaugural Intemann Trail workday Sept. 12, 1987, was when a guy who said he cooked for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) projects showed up at one of our committee's planning meetings.

            I say goofy because "Cookie" spoke with such enthusiasm about his favorite post-workday meals and desserts (especially desserts) that one of our number quietly joked that he probably liked eating the food as much as making it.

            The reason I bring this up is not to make fun, but because his well-intended but essentially useless presentation dramatized our growing realization that as great as it

was having VOC talent and experience for the workday, it would hardly be a "turnkey" deal. Our group, the then-young Intemann Trail Committee (ITC), would have to organize the lion's share of the activities -- including cooking for more than 100 anticipated volunteers -- or they wouldn't get done at all.

            Fortunately, the ITC was a multi-talented group. Joanne Garrison, experienced in volunteer functions, was heading a food committee that was gathering donations from businesses and planning a menu for the after-workday dinner. Bob Naatz, a graphics artist, was creating T-shirts and a flyer. Bill Koerner, a Manitou Springs city councilman, was seeking permission to use the city's Crystal Hills water tank as a staging area for workers.

            Robin Intemann (now Purvis), a writer, was helping put together news releases. And the people responsible for leasing the portable toilets... well, they would probably not like it implied that such a task was/is their perfect talent fit.

            Other advance chores included gaining permission from the town to use Soda Springs Park for the post-workday dinner; also from School District 14 to use its buses and drivers for shuttling workers and Manitou Springs High School for registration. As project coordinator, Naatz was staying in touch with the VOC folks regarding routing updates and the crew leaders and tools they would be sending down.

            Somewhere along the way, VOC gave us the word that beer was an absolute necessity after the workday. My notes show that someone else was initially assigned to this all-important task, but somehow I wound up with it. I'm not 100 percent sure how our scheme came about -- maybe a suggestion from someone in our group -- but the end result was trail workers getting free beer after the workday at the Ancient Mariner tavern in Manitou Springs. The way it worked was that tavern owner Anne Stinson bought two extra kegs from her supplier and we paid her for them.

            Volunteers identified themselves at the bar by presenting small, round leather chits, each bearing the letters "INT," which they had received at the workday. Garrison's recollection is that the chits were created gratis by the late John Smischny, who owned a downtown Manitou leather shop for many years.

            Stinson was already closely involved with the workday planning. She had volunteered to cook the workers' dinner (barbecued chicken quarters, potato salad and baked beans), which would be served out with donated soft drinks and desserts in the park. In addition, the Mariner was serving as an auxiliary trail-worker recruiting station, preregistering close to 30 workers.

            It was an exciting time. In the year and a half since Paul's death, Bob Naatz and Robin Intemann had built considerable interest in the outdoor community for the new trail that would begin fulfilling Paul's dream. So many people seemed eager to help. Probably the best example was the Pikes Peak Trails Coalition, also newly formed in 1987, which responded to Bob's non-specific pitch for assistance by voting to give the Intemann Trail $5,000 in proceeds from its inaugural fund-raiser.

            Excited was not quite the descriptive word for Mickey Carter, then the director of El Paso County Parks and Open Space, when Bob and I approached him that summer with the  all-important request to allow the first leg of the Intemann Trail through county-leased Section 16. He sat behind his big desk, smoking a cigarette, considering our proposal with a bored expression. Then he puffed out a cloud of smoke and said, matter of factly, I'll let you build your trail. (Using county tools was out of the question, though; he said there were too many liability issues.)

            Carter was at least as good as his word. On his recommendation, final permission eventually came from the County Parks Board. Meanwhile, the Palmer Foundation's John Covert, one of the founders of the Trails Coalition, was working with the city of Colorado Springs to obtain a temporary use permit -- later to become a legal easement to allow trail on city Water Division property just west of Section 16 and south of Manitou's Crystal Hills subdivision.

            Regarding that property, the trail workday was to reveal a slightly embarrassing situation for the City of Manitou Springs, namely its lack of true public access to it. City crews can only get to the Manitou-owned water tank, located on Water Division property, by using a Crystal Hills homeowner's driveway for the first 100 feet or so. This situation, resulting from an oversight in the city's long-ago approval of the Crystal Hills development plan, had never been a problem till our workday. The homeowner, a doctor, was even public-spirited enough to let his driveway be used for trail-worker access Sept. 12. But in the days that followed, streams of people, having heard about the new trail, would keep filing through there to access it, leading to complaints from the doctor and no-trespassing signs from the city. (Fortunately, two years later, when we did another major project with the VOC, someone else owned that house, allowing us to get permission again.)

            At last all was in readiness for the workday. There was a scare about the weather the night before. I had to cover a Manitou High football game for the Pikes Peak Journal, and the rain suddenly came down in buckets. It was a relief when the storm passed and the skies cleared. In fact, it was later suggested, the water may have helped loosen  the soil for the project the next day.

            Early the morning of Sept. 12, I was thinking of a million things. Had we done such and such? Would so-and-so remember this and that? It turned out I had forgotten a rather significant item of my own. Driving my old milk truck, I ran out of gas on the way to Manitou Springs. Fortunately, Mary Ryan, who had begun attending committee meetings later in the summer, pulled over to lend a hand.

            Otherwise, the day couldn't have been more perfect. The weather was clear, not too hot. With a lot of people showing up spontaneously, the sign-ups were closer to 150 than the 100 or so we'd expected from the advance registration. As per our plans, the school buses carried workers to the Section 16 trailhead and the doctor's driveway. At the trailhead and the water tank, workers were given tools and put on crews, after which they followed their crew leaders to pre-assigned sections and began carving maiden footpath into hillsides, meadows, forests and scrub-oak thickets.

            My section was the farthest east, right at the turnoff from the Section 16/Red Rock Loop Trail. My six-person crew included a contractor who had remodeled part of our house, a guy whose wife was in Terri's (my wife's) modern dance group and people I haven't seen since. I still feel a thrill every time I walk on the 170 feet we put in that day.

            Memories of the project also remain fresh in the mind of Joanne Garrison. "I remember bringing water up (to the trail)," she said. "One of the most exciting things to me was when I got to the mesa and had that view of the Garden of the Gods. I felt in a special way Paul's presence, that we were fulfilling his dream. It gave me goose bumps, that we really were going to be able to do it."

            Politically, the Intemann Trail was the place to be that day. The State Trails Board visited as part of its Sept. 12 meeting in Colorado Springs. Workers included a state representative and four Manitou Springs council members (a majority).

            "I remember a great sense of camaraderie," Dan Stuart recalled. He was mayor of Manitou Springs at that time and his wife, Gail, had helped with the committee's planning. "Everybody was excited about being out there and working on it together," added Stuart, who chuckles now at photos of him working that day with his baby son Tyler (now 17 and as tall as he is) on his back.

            The volunteers' eagerness is evident in that many crews finished their sections faster than expected and moved on to help with harder sections. Troy Parker of the VOC was quoted in the Journal that workers far exceeded the 25 feet per day, per person that is typical of volunteer trail-building efforts.

            Naatz, who in his project coordinator capacity was, as he put it, "cruising the whole project end to end," said he found himself "amazed at what was getting done, considering no one had any experience. We've had good trail days since then, but there was an unreal energy level that day."

            In all, about 1.2 miles were built, from the Section 16 Trail turnoff to a point near the water tank. Roughly a quarter of that stretch has since been rerouted for drainage reasons, but the remainder has stood the test of time extremely well, requiring only the expected lopping and the occasional rock replacement, debris-clearing or water bar maintenance.

            "Paul would have been impressed to see everything that has been done, Robin wrote in a letter to the Journal after the workday. "I know he would have loved to be a part of the backbreaking crews that worked on the trail. The trail and the community support for it are a wonderful tribute to him."