David Johnson is a retired teacher and an avid hiker. Brags he’s done all the area trails and many more.
“I’ve hiked all over the country,” Johnson said. “I enjoy it.”
I figured he’d be the last guy trying to block construction of a trail connecting Manitou Springs with Woodland Park.
But Johnson is campaigning loudly against efforts by El Paso County to complete the Ute Pass Regional Trail.
To rally his neighbors and convince the county it shouldn’t build a 3-mile stretch of trail that includes a frontage road along busy U.S. Highway 24 in Cascade,
Johnson is using scare tactics, painting one extreme scenario after another.
“I’ve seen a lot of cigarettes thrown into the brush,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen fire rings where they’re not allowed. Booze bottles.
“There are so many idiots using public facilities. If they build this trail, we’ll have all these people coming in and it only takes one.”
You’ve probably figured out the trail would run past Johnson’s home, one of a half-dozen or so on the frontage road.
Johnson insists he doesn’t want to stop people from enjoying their public land.
“I’m not against anybody hiking or learning about nature,” he said.
But he said the frontage road is private land. A trail would violate his privacy.
He also suggests upwards of 30,000 people a year will tackle the steep, twisting trail officials hope to build between Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls, where the trail now ends.
Eventually, Johnson gets to the heart of his opposition: “Our goal is to re-route the trail away from our neighborhood.”
He doesn’t care where it goes as long as it’s not in his front yard.
His wailing has achieved some success.
The county abandoned an idea of building a trailhead at the end of the frontage road, easing fears of traffic and parking.
“The trailhead has been completely ruled out at this time,” said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, “because of the concerns of the neighbors.”
But the frontage road remains a possible link in the trail, depending on the outcome of upcoming meetings to gather opinions.
“We’re going to do a more robust public hearing process and get input from all residents and stakeholders on that leg of the trail,” Clark said.
She noted there aren’t a lot of options for threading a trail through the steep, narrow terrain of Ute Pass.
And, frankly, she believes it will attract only a fraction of the volume Johnson predicts.
Still, it’s an important link and the county is committed to completing it.
After all, even boozing, pyromaniacal idiots deserve to hike!