Unlikely duo launch effort to replace Pikes Peak summit house

Filed under: Daily News,Tourism | Tags:, , ,

Two community leaders have embarked on an effort to raise money to replace the Pikes Peak Summit House.

Jim Bensberg, a former El Paso County commissioner, and John Hazlehurst, a columnist for the Colorado Springs Independent and a former Business Journal writer,  will be “talking to everybody” about raising the $15 million to $19 million needed to build a new summit house.

The two, who were once political opponents divided by plans to pave the Pikes Peak Highway, unveiled their plans during a mayoral press conference today.

The city’s strategic plan in the 1990s recommended replacing the summit house, so building plans and  architects’ renderings already exist and environmental impact studies have been completed.

“This is about as shovel-ready as it gets,” Hazlehurst said. “But the problem is that it will cost millions to get the shovels up there.”

Bensberg said there is about $1 million left over from the former highway paving project that has been earmarked for the summit house.

About 500,000 people visit the summit of Pikes Peak every year – traveling via the cog railway or the highway, or by hiking.

“And they find the summit house to be disappointing,” Hazlehurst said.

John Hazlehurst, left, and Jim Bensberg hope to raise $15 million to replace the aging Pikes Peak summit house. (photo by Rob Larimer)

“We want to change that.”

Changing it could prove more complicated than merely raising money from grants or donations. There are a variety of federal agencies that have responsibility for Pikes Peak. The U.S. Forest Service is responsible for the mountain below 14,000 feet. The final 110 feet at the summit have been designated a national historic site. And the U.S. Army has a small presence at the peak.

The Pikes Peak Highway is a city enterprise, and Hazlehurst said it might be possible to use surplus money from maintaining the highway to pay for the summit house.

“I think it would be unwise to depend on those surpluses, however,” he said.

Instead, the two are hoping to raise the needed money from a variety of sources – including federal grants and nonprofit organizations.