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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A lone landowner can close a popular waterfall route near Pike’s Pekoe

The Horsethief Falls Trail, a popular hike near Pike Peak, is a moderate, 2.6-mile out-and-back trail near Cripple Creek that features a small waterfall in autumn and spectacular fall colors. The trail includes the option to stop off and enjoy the view from Pancake Rock. (Beth Rankin, The Denver Post)

A private landowner who threatened to block a popular hiking trail in Pike National Forest because 76 feet crosses a corner of his land is now saying he won’t close the Horsethief Park Trail this summer, but He may decide to do so eventually if he doesn’t get what he wants from the US Forest Service.

Mike Locke’s property is surrounded by National Forest land, and he wants the agency to agree to a land swap with him, to allow hikers to use the trail section on his land. Locke says he first contacted the Forest Service about a deal in 2019.

“I have the limit of my patience,” Locke said, “so we’ll see if (the Forest Service) responds.”

Locke recently posted a sign on his property saying that the trail on his land would be closed after July 15 and that “crossing a landlord’s property” after that date would be considered trespass.

“You can safely report that the dates (from the sign) have been removed and the mark is not closed,” Locke said in a text message on Monday.

The Horsethief Park Trail, which is believed to have originated as a wagon road in the 1890s, is located about five miles west of Pikes Peak and is very popular with hikers in the Colorado Springs area.

“Typically on a weekend, the parking lot will fill up,” said Steve Bremer, president of Friends of the Peak, an organization that promotes the preservation of the environment and increases recreational opportunities in the Pikes Peak area. “It’s the quickest way to get to some really beautiful areas like Horsethief Park, Pancake Rocks, and there’s a waterfall.”

Locke says he wants to trade for a small piece of Forest Service land near his other property so that he can build a cabin for his daughter.

“My proposal was as simple as can be: I’ll give you the property where the trail is, and what I want is 150 feet up in the national forest,” Locke said. “It is (a) pure and simple to ask.”

District Ranger Oscar Martinez is unwilling to accommodate them.

Horsethief Falls is by no means a Colorado waterfall, but it is a lovely place to stop and have a snack in between. (Beth Rankin, The Denver Post)

“I can see from the landlord’s point of view that he would like to do a land exchange,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if giving up property as a federal land manager would be in our best interest. It doesn’t make sense if it’s not in the greater good. More specific tools for us to use when we look at these discrepancies in that scenario.” But let’s find that the long run, then we try to find the path of least resistance, which is the logical thing. In this case, I don’t know if land exchange is the appropriate tool. One possible solution would be an easier route. could.”

Failing that, Martinez stated that the route could be rerouted to avoid Locke’s estate.

“It could be as simple as resurfacing that corner around 76 feet,” Martinez said. “If you re-route it would it be obvious to hit the mark a little bit? Maybe. But is it doable? Sure. For us it’s probably a very logical thing.”

related: 5 waterfall hikes near Denver to re-energize yourself

The potential closure of the Horsethief Trail was dangerous to hikers in the area and a concern for supporters of the Ring the Peak Trail, a 62-mile loop around Pikes Peak that links the Friends of the Peak and Trails and Open Space. Like does hiking advocacy groups. Coalition of Colorado Springs is promoting. Bremer said the mark is about 80% complete.

“There’s a section near Cripple Creek and Victor that we’ve been working on for many years and we haven’t been able to close that gap,” Bremer said. “But the rest of it is mostly there, and this mark[Locke]is threatening to block is part of that mark.”

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