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El Paso County asks hikers to help brush weeds away

With a growing weed problem and a limited budget, El Paso County is asking hikers to help keep the pesky plants under control.

The county has installed two boot brushes — one at the Baptist Road trailhead to the Santa Fe Trail, and one at the Orion Drive trailhead to the Bear Creek Park Trail.

People who walk and hike those trails are being asked to clean their boots and shoes before and after their trips.

Doing that, the county said, will reduce the number of seeds that spread and grow weeds in areas along those trails.

“Think about all the seeds and pieces of weeds that stick to your clothing when you’re off the trail,” said Tina Travis, the county’s environmental technician. “That same material can be on your shoes or boots.”

The county also asks trail users to clean their dogs’ paws before and after trail trips.

But will trail users use the brushes?

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Kerri Yeager. “I’ve lived here for probably 25 years, and I’ve seen some really noxious weeds come up in our neighborhood that have really influenced the beauty of the trails. But I think people would be more willing to use the brushes if they were actually on the trail, instead of off to the side where it’s east for people to ignore them.”

Sue Cliatt and her friend walked on the Santa Fe Trail, and both tried the boot-brush routine.

“I don’t walk in the weeds, I walk on the trail,” she said. “But I guess the weeds come on the trail, too.”
The brushes are accompanied by signs showing which weeds are the biggest problem along each trail.

The county struggles to control numerous species of weeds that aren’t native to Colorado and squeeze out native plants.

Weed control is time-consuming and expensive, and the county has only two people and a budget of $25,000 allocated to the job.

The county said the brushes have made a difference in other states and more brushes will be placed on other trails if the strategy is successful here.

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