Chapter 5: “ ’88: Could ITC keep its ‘mo’?”

(first published in Foot Notes, Spring/Summer issue, 2004 – Volume 15, Number 1)

by Kenyon Jordan

 

            With the completion of the first leg of the Intemann Trail Sept. 12, 1987, members of the Intemann Trail Committee (ITC) were filled with an understandable sense of pride. We had not only built a new trail, we had stumbled on a new way of  accomplishing such work.

            Naturally, the most exciting part was the trail itself – linking the old Palmer/Red Rock Loop Trail in the county-leased Section 16 property with the undeveloped area south of Crystal Hills in Manitou Springs. The route, traversing gulleys and occasional scrub oak forests, had previously been accessible only to stout-hearted bushwackers.

            Along the way, we had shown that building public trails in Colorado Springs did not have to be costly or bureaucratic. Before the ’87 Intemann project, the typical way trails got built in the region was by city and county governments, following the cumbersome and expensive process of master-planning routes then surveying the exact lines down to the square inch, purchasing rights of way, applying for grants and finally using mechanized equipment to scrape in the path.          With occasional exceptions – such as the Forrest Allen Overlook Trail in Section 16 in the early ‘70s – volunteer efforts had consisted mainly of supporting government efforts (for example, neighborhood associations endlessly bugging the city to put in some trail that had been requested years before).

            True, the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) had been building trail using volunteers for about three years before our first project, but their projects were generally accomplished in conjunction with government entities. This first stretch of the Intemann, like all those that followed, was built without any direct government involvement… other than an occasional Manitou council member or state representative showing up for a workday.

            Another revelation from September 1987 workday was that the Pikes Peak region had a host of volunteers ready and willing to build trail themselves. The VOC had provided the bulk of trail-building leaders and workers, but at least half of the 150 – including several of the crew leaders – were from the Pikes Peak region.

            The significance went further. None of us could have known at the time, but about eight years later, when El Paso County was considering a development proposal for Section 16, the arguments against the plan were greatly strengthened by our proof of citizen “sweat equity” in creating trail that opened up the northwest portion of Section 16. Of course, by then, the Intemann extended all the way to Manitou Springs… but that’s getting ahead of the story.

            In some ways, the year or so that followed our first workday was a disappointment. We built no new trail, other than a few minor reroutes related to problem areas from the ’87 project. A lot of energy was spent fruitlessly – working with the City of Manitou Springs on a big U.S. Forest Service grant that went nowhere and with a representative of a developer in a vain attempt to find an acceptable right of way through land he then owned west of Crystal Park Road. And, because we’d focused so hard on the ’87 project that until it was finished, we missed the deadline to apply to the VOC for their 1988 project list.

            Recalling those days now, my first thought is why we (the ITC) didn’t say forget the grant, forget the VOC and just start building new trail where it was possible to do so – namely, west from Crystal Hills to Crystal Park Road. We used such a little-by-little approach on later occasions – for example, the Red Mountain Trail four years ago, which took us six or seven workdays.

            I think in 1988 it was a matter of confidence. Most of us had only been on one or two trail workdays. We weren’t sure we knew what we were doing yet. This is indicated in our later application (August 1988) to be included on VOC’s 1989 project list. Regarding the scope of the project, we wrote: “We are not prepared to provide plans and sections at this time. While most of us have some crew-leading background, we do not feel technically qualified to get that detailed in the process without some help from the VOC.”

            All the same, our committee members benefitted from the learning experience. Although a few people who had helped out with the first workday stopped being closely involved afterward – evidently feeling satisfied with the achievement or facing new priorities in their lives – most of us felt the task was just beginning. We were meeting regularly, assigning tasks to one another, getting tighter as a group. We had plenty to do. My notes from the meetings that year, for example, show us ordering tools, making signs, researching easements, organizing a dedication of the new trail (May 14, 1988), setting up planning hikes and hammering out the project application to VOC for 1989. Starting in April of ’88, we began doing workdays or hikes througout the warm months.

            Two ITC members, Bob Naatz and Mary Ryan, participated in VOC workdays elsewhere in the state that summer, thus refining their trail-building know-how. Mary in particular was getting interested in the details of trail layout – an area in which she would specialize for several years with the ITC.

            As for our own workdays, we were already getting into our format of having potluck parties afterward. We’d modeled the idea from the VOC, which justifiably put a lot of importance on feeding volunteer workers handsomely when the job was done. The potluck part was a twist we came up with. That’s always been a feature of the ITC – everybody seems to be good cooks.

            Unfortunately, not everyone in the VOC was impressed with our little committee. A letter from certain VOC higher-ups in late ’88 even expressed the concern that the ITC would “lose momentum” over the winter; as a result, they recommended denial of our project application because of a concern about insufficient local support. The “lose momentum” part seems funny in retrospect – but it was not so illogical at the time. After all, the ITC was and is a rarity, in terms of a group of people remaining committed for so long to the development of a local hiking trail.

            Why is that so, considering that few of our group even knew Paul Intemann? Maybe that’s a question for another day.

            In any case, by the spring of ’89, we had a new sense of direction, having been approved for a two-day VOC project that August 26-27. Once again the ITC began gearing up for a major project, which meant organizing food donations, meal preparation, worker transportation, beer chits, publicity and entertainment (fortunately, the Mountain Music Festival was scheduled that weekend in Manitou’s Soda Springs Park). This time a new element was added, that of training crew leaders ourselves. Our confidence, not to mention our momentum, was growing.

 

Coming in Chapter 6: The Aug. 26-27 project… and beyond.