Who’ll call shots on south slope?

Access group fears role may be limited

Fishing the reservoirs was one reason Jim Williams, a member of Trout Unlimited, signed up for the group.
“I think we may have to revise the whole policy,” he said.
http://www.gazette.com/articles/group_27774___article.html/utilities_south.html

By DAVE PHILIPPS

THE GAZETTE

September 27, 2007 – 12:14AM

The question at the first meeting of WAAG was who’s wagging whom?

WAAG is the Watershed Access Advisory Group, appointed by Colorado Springs Utilities to make recommendations on how to regulate recreation in the long-forbidden south slope watershed. But would Utilities call the shots, or would the people?

“I don’t have a problem with calling the group WAAG, just as long as it isn’t ambiguous who is the dog and who is the tail,” member and avid hiker Eric Swab said Wednesday at the group’s meeting.

It was the start of a twoyear process to open a set of seven reservoirs on the south side of Pikes Peak to the public while ensuring the long-term safety of the water supply. The group expects to submit a plan to the Colorado Springs City Council in August 2009. There is no timeline for when hikers could hit the trail.

The 45,000-acre south slope has been closed to the public since 1913. For almost as long, locals have lobbied unsuccessfully to gain access. Robert Ormes, the pioneer of local hiking, tried for decades, then adopted a motto he called the Ormes Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those we trespass against.”

Colorado Springs has gradually opened a number of reservoirs to the public without incident, but has repeatedly balked at opening the South Slope, even after hinting it would open it twice.

WAAG was formed after heated watershed access meetings last winter in which Colorado Springs Utilities made an about-face after saying repeatedly it would not consider opening the south slope.

Wednesday, members of the newly formed group, made up almost entirely of hikers, bikers,
fishermen and equestrians, made it clear they wanted to be the lead dog.

A mission statement drawn up by Utilities said the group should focus on creating four trails, including one that already exists and has been used openly for a century, and one that is 30 yards long. Several in the group immediately said the mission was too limited.

“Are we talking about a few trails, or are we talking about access to the whole watershed?” asked Friends of the Peak president Mary Burger.

The mission statement also said motorized recreation, hunting and fishing would not be considered.

Fishing the reservoirs was one reason Jim Williams, a member of Trout Unlimited, signed up for the group.

“I think we may have to revise the whole policy,” he said.

Utilities staff assured them it was only a draft, and “everything is still on the table.”

“We need to strive for a balance though – today’s access versus tomorrow’s water,” said Scott Campbell, Utilities director of operations.

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