Chapter 6: “1989: A very good year”

(first published in Foot Notes, Spring/Summer issue, 2005 – Volume 16, Number 1)

by Kenyon Jordan


            Chapter 5 of our saga carried the history of the Intemann Trail up to the early part of 1989 and the announcement that the Denver-based Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) had scheduled a major project on the Intemann Trail for later that year on August 26 and 27.

            Working in conjunction with the Intemann Trail Commitee (ITC), the VOC plan was to extend the Intemann Trail – the first mile of which the ITC and VOC had built in 1987 between the Section 16 Trail and the open land above Crystal Hills – roughly another ¾ mile to Crystal Park Road, where we planned to have a trailhead with parking. Because this was the ITC’s second time working with the VOC, planning came a little easier than the first time, even though this project would be two days instead of one. “It seems like we were halfway organized,” recently recalled Bob Naatz, the ITC chair in those early days. “ We had a better understanding of what to do to make things work with the VOC.”

In this, our food subcommittee played an unsung part, just as it had in 1987. Led by chair Peggy Borman (then Beinschroth), a total of 22 businesses or individuals donated a total of $785 in goods, cash or services to the effort, with items ranging from Safeway’s 300 chicken quarters to Dolly Madison’s unnumbered doughnuts.

            The food subcommittee was needed because we of the ITC were again defining our role, as we had in ’87, as project organizers. In addition to planning and preparing the day-end meals (in Manitou Springs City Hall), we had to reserve a registration locale (also City Hall), provide transportation to the work site (rented District 14 school buses, which took workers to the City of Manitou Spring’s water tank property above Crystal Hills), supply work-site restroom facilities (rented porta-johns), deliver evening entertainment (luckily Manitou’s annual Mountain Music Festival was going on all that weekend) and make sure there was booze (specially earmarked beer kegs at the Ancient Mariner tavern). In addition, we set up a local phone number for people to sign up in advance.

The VOC’s part of the deal was vital, of course. We again needed the group’s big-project experience, their trail-design assistance, their trained crew leaders, their statewide volunteer base and their tools. But to refer to it as a “VOC project,” without reference to the ITC at all – as the project is still sometimes referenced and as the Gazette wrote it up in its advance story on the project Aug. 13 – is unfair and untrue. Still, such an omission in an “outside” news article was not a total surprise. The idea that a volunteer committee, unaffiliated with government, could serve as the long-term builder/maintainer of a major regional trail was pretty much unheard of. Undoubtedly, the writer of the article just assumed that after the VOC went home, somebody from the Forest Service or City Utilities or whatever would drive through in little Bobcats now and then to clear up the path. As if.

            Identity issues aside, pulling 1989 together was an interesting and even exhilirating task. For Mary Burger (then Ryan), it was the first time she ever got to design a trail. After training to be a VOC crew leader, serving as such in the ’87 project, then becoming a regular at VOC workdays throughout ‘88, she was keenly interested in the technical aspects of the upcoming ’89 project, she recalled in a recent interview. One thing she noticed, however, was that even though the VOC leadership had agreed to the project, the group’s technical advisors were not very enthusiastic. One of them even referred to the section – which traversed the hillside and gulleys above Crystal Hills – as “boring,” she said.

            “That’s how I ended up being the designer,” she said. “No one else would do it.”

            In an attempt to learn more, she tutored with Hugh Duffy, a VOC volunteer who, as an Interior Department employee, had helped design trails in Rocky Mountain National Park; she also got solid project-day help from Linda Strand, a VOC’er who is still park planner for the City of Aurora. She especially credited another VOC veteran, Seth Howard, for coming down on several occasions to help fine-tune the trail line. He taught her one way to check her work. After flagging a section, he had her hike over to a nearby hill and look back. She was surprised to see how, without realizing it, “when you lay out a trail, you tend to scallop it; you go down and come up, down and come up.”

            Several committee members assisted in the preliminary stages of figuring out the basic trail layout. All we knew for sure was that somehow it had to find its way from the ’87 end point above the water tank to a narrow strip where the city Water Division property touched Crystal Park Road. (At least the city thought its property went to the road. But we’ll get to that in the next chapter.)

            Wanting to get a head start on the August project, the ITC organized in July the first of a couple of “pre-trail days,” extending the tread westward from the water tank. This worked out well, although one part had to be re-done when Mary realized fairly late in the process that her line was a little too low.

            The workdays on Aug. 26-27, 1989, were excellent. The weather was perfect, and everything went off without a hitch (other than the worst injury we’ve had – a broken finger suffered by then-Manitou Mayor Dan Stuart while doing rockwork). The only real drawback was that we would have needed a lot more volunteers to make it all the way to the road. In fact, we wound up about a third of a mile short of that goal. The actual distance covered was 2,100 feet, Howard said afterward.

            But it would be hard to criticize the Pikes Peak region for apathy. My files include all the workers’ waiver forms for that weekend, and I just got through counting and sorting them all. The total number of waivers was 114 – many of them for people who worked both days. Of these, 80 were from our area, with the rest of them VOC volunteers from Denver and elsewhere around the state. Considering that estimates for the 1987 workday (I don’t know what happened to that year’s waiver forms) put the 150-volunteer total at half local and half Denver, our area’s numbers improved between ’87 and ’89.

            The distance covered (less than half a mile) in two days compares with the one mile built in one day in 1987. But the terrain was more difficult. An article in the weekly Pikes Peak Journal after the project states, “Extensive rock work was required in five areas of the trail, to traverse ditches or ravines or to make allowance for insubstantial soils.”

            The article also quoted  Naatz that “the quality of this trail was a lot higher [than in 1987]. People were saying we won’t have to do a lot on it for five or six years, whereas we’ve had to go back and change sections on the old trail.”

            Naatz turned out to be more prophetic than he realized. The ‘89 VOC-ITC segment has stood the test of time admirably. In the 16 years since, we have never had to re-route any of it; the only required work has been lopping vegetation or occasionally uprooting a yucca or scrub oak coming up in the trail. I don’t even recall ever having to do a water bar.

            Another memorable part of that project was when elderly Robert Ormes, at the time Colorado’s most revered mountain trail authority, hiked in on the second day, with the help of a young assistant. The Journal article states, “He said the project was making his book obsolete, but he was pleased to see it.”

            Elsewhere, the article notes that, because the trail still had no public access except from the Section 16 Trail, “Some people have been known to use a ‘midnight access’ across about 100 feet of undeveloped private property between Crystal Hills’ Bevers Place and the Water Division land.”

            That private property was then owned by John Bock, who had rebuffed a previous ITC request for an easement there. All we needed was to get from Bevers to the Water Division parcel. At the time, we still had slim hope Bock might come around (he didn’t). His property is now Red Rock Canyon Open Space, and the city master plan recognizes the Bevers area as a low-profile trailhead.

            But back then the only recourse for the ITC was to finish the trail to Crystal Park Road... ourselves. We organized workdays in September and October that year, and continued the effort with monthly workdays starting the following spring.

            There are a few more matters to note from 1989. We were getting in touch with different groups regarding the trail’s future: one was the then-recently formed Mineral Springs Foundation about putting our westernmost trailhead at the Iron Spring in Manitou; another was Manitou Springs City Council, to make them a “partner” in the ITC effort (kind of the opposite of the way such things usually work); a third was the Crystal Hills homeowners association, asking to coordinate with us in seeking a Bevers easement and building/improving the trail from there to the Intemann.

            In December, the ITC had two more upbeat events. The State Trails Committee made the Intemann Trail “corridor” part of the State Recreational Trails Master Plan. And, we held our first Year-End (Christmas) Party, a tradition that has continued ever since.