El Paso County Community Services Department Parks Operations and Environmental Divisions have installed two boot brush stations designed to keep hikers from spreading noxious plant seeds.
The stations are located at Baptist Road Trailhead for the New Sante Fe Trail — a 17-mile scenic trail from the Palmer Lake Recreation Area in northern El Paso County through the U.S. Air Force Academy — and the Orion Drive Trailhead for Bear Creek Regional Park. Through these stations, hikers can fight noxious weeds known to destroy biological diversity, decrease forage and increase erosion potential.
According to Environmental Division Technician Tina Travis, swiping ones feet helps stop the establishment of invasive species. “The signs will educate trail users as to what invasive species are and which specific ones to look for in the area. Keeping weed seeds contained deter species from becoming established in areas currently weed-free,” Travis said.
In an Oct. 4 news release, Environmental Division Manager Kathy Andrew said visitors travel from site-to-site and can bring new invasive species with them to a trail. The stations encourage hikers to clean their shoes before and/or after they hike, raise awareness about invasive species and inform them of what they can do to reduce the spread while they brush.
According to Andrew, signs identify the most problematic noxious weeds that can be found along the adjoining trail and in the area. The purpose of the device is similar to other environmental cleaning management practices, such as inspecting for non-native organisms prior to entering and exiting the water.
“The stations help educate trail users about invasive species as they clean their boots and shoes,” Andrew said.
Hikers are encouraged to use the station upon arriving at the trail to get rid of any seeds, mud and other material from boots and shoes they may have brought with them. They also are encouraged to clean their feet when leaving the trail to keep from spreading plant material to other areas.
Citizens are encouraged to brush off backpacks, clothing, and animal hooves and paws before entering and leaving the hiking area as these also can carry invasive plant seeds.
Chris Adams is an extension forester and research specialist with the University of Illinois. In a May 1 article posted on PlayCleanGo.Blog, Adams said boot brush stations are raising awareness about invasive species, and are helping reduce the spread and establishment of new infestations.
“Spread prevention aims to change behaviors to eliminate even the slightest opportunity for an invasive species to establish. This type of management avoids the costs and time of controlling or eradicating intact infestations,” Adams wrote.
Adams offered some simple housekeeping tasks to keep boot brush stations in top performance.
• Clean boot brush signage and replace worn bristles once a year.
• Remove and dispose the dirt mound that will accumulate under them. Add a large, shallow box at the base filled with gravel to help keep the area clean and dry. Replacing the gravel annually helps keep the brush stations in good shape.
• Remove and properly dispose weeds that grow around the boot brush station.
• Fix all broken parts, tighten loose screws and keep the station sturdy and maintained.
Adams recommended installing more maintenance or multiple stations on busy trailheads to prevent hikers from having to stand in line. “Boot brushes stations have become a great tool for raising awareness about invasive species. They have empowered many to take action and know they have a role in helping prevent the spread of these pesky hitchhikers,” Adams wrote.
Travis agreed. “Colorado and the U.S. have experienced success with boot brush stations. A collaborative effort was provided by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which resulted in the Boot Brush Station effort,” Travis said.
El Paso County teamed up with The Colorado Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Program on this collaborative “Play, Clean, Go” project, the news release reported. The stations cost $567 apiece and were installed in September, Travis said.
“We are applying for a grant from the Colorado Department of Agriculture that will reimburse $177 each, which would bring the cost down to $390 each,” Travis said.
The logistics of getting the stations made was the biggest obstacle, Travis said. “They (stations) are not a readily available product. Installation was easily performed by County staff and is one more tool to stop the establishment of noxious weeds. EPC will monitor to determine impacts and may consider installing more (stations) in the future.”
To learn more, call El Paso County Environmental Division at 719-520-7878 or visit communityservices.elpasoco.com/environmental-division/forestry-noxious-weeds.