As plans formed to “renaturalise” the La Jolla Bikeway, a five-year retrospective presentation on maintaining it was presented to the board of La Jolla Parks & Beaches at its meeting Feb. 27.
In 2018, Park & Beach the group chose to formalize its efforts to maintain the cycle lanes and formed a committee to pursue funds that would cover future costs of maintaining the lanes. Since then, the board has heard regular updates about the line and its maintenance.
The cycle path lies between Nautilus Street and Mira Monte and is used by cyclists and pedestrians alike. Just east of the road is a steep, sensitive slope filled with native vegetation. There is also an unpaved trail that links south to the Camino de la Costa. Parts of it are owned by the La Jolla United Methodist Church.
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In recent years, volunteers have removed trash and dead brush from the trails during organized cleanups. Private donors help cover the cost of permits from the city of San Diego, along with the waste containers and their removal.
“Our goal is to keep the trails clean and safe while protecting the native habitat around them,” said local volunteer Debbie Adams, who led the clean-up. “We have filled, over the last three or four years, about eight 40-[cubic-]yard trash as well as plenty of shelter cans.
Adams began working with the local Kiwanis Club in 2020 for grants to pay for additional permits and for services such as professional gardening. The group also relies on donations to fund ongoing work.
Last year, the city granted the Kiwanis Club a year-round pass to carry out cleanups as needed.
Adams credits Kiwanis member Glen Rasmussen, who he says “knows every inch of the road,” for shepherding the partnership.
“When Glen and I looked deeper into what needed to be done, we concentrated on the massive amount of trash in the hills,” says Adams. “We set about the first two years of chasing trash. One day, we came across a huge mess, so he used a rope to climb down a ravine and threw trash at me and I bagged it. We’re getting better handling of the trash now.
They were in for a surprise, he said, when they started clearing brush and trash from the south side of the trail. “We kept finding all this construction debris: rebar, wire, cement, truck axles, rusted parts, 5-gallon cans,” he said. “We discovered it used to be a construction truck dump … and was buried for years. When we opened them there were so many and we had to hire professionals to help us.”
Volunteers are now focusing on the vegetation in the area, Adams said.
He said the problem that emerged was Arundo grass, a highly flammable invasive species that can grow up to 20 feet tall and take over an area.
“It’s growing in about four places and spreading like crazy,” Adams said. “In our hopes and dreams we want to see it gone forever so we can plant some nice trees and native vegetation.”
Volunteers did not remove vegetation from the bike path, Adams said, although they trimmed the portion that encroached on it.
A “sad story with a happy ending,” he says, is about an oak tree that was cut down by vandals, but volunteers managed to save it.
“We will take every opportunity to add new trees,” he said.
Another possible plan is to create a swamp-like area where flooding occurs frequently. “These areas are waterlogged and persist for a long time, so I had a gardener come out recently and he felt we could fill the pond with rocks, but the bogs would still be there and we could find native plants that like swampy environments,” says Adams. He noted, however, that still water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Adams also noted recent changes promoting the safe use of bike lanes.
For example, the city recently painted crosswalks green where their lanes intersect with the road to alert drivers that pedestrians or cyclists may be present.
There is also a bollard at the entrance to the road so that motorized vehicles cannot enter there. However, the volunteers are considering widening the distance between the poles or rearranging them so that strollers and wide bicycles can pass through.
But Adams said more modifications were being sought. Top of the list, he says, are the barren slopes that drop mud and rocks when it rains, and the need for signposts to be upgraded and repaired.
Any new signs, he said, would ideally “tell people to respect the natural habitat” and would provide clarification on who can use the trails, given the growing use of electric bicycles, which have motors to assist riders.
“The sign is so old that it doesn’t catch the eye of people on the road… so we’re looking at a newer, more colorful, lower sign that will make it clear who is allowed to drive on the road and encourage people to slow down,” he said.
New signs could suggest a speed limit for electric bicycles, which can reach speeds of around 28 mph, and/or recommend that e-bikers ride in a single row to reduce interaction with other lane users.
Parks & Beaches board member Sally Miller credited Adams with walking the trails most days to watch over her. “The street is one of our best examples of open space like this and is used every day,” says Miller. “It’s a treasure trove for La Jolla.”
A long-term conceptual plan is being developed to “re-naturalise” the road. The plans are being drawn up by local resident and urbanist Trace Wilson, who is also involved in the renovation plans La Jolla Recreation Centermake street view master plan and much more.
Wilson and Adams cataloged the native vegetation in the trail area and divided it into 11 segments, with a vegetation plan for each segment. The work also involves laying the winding paths, repairing eroded tracks and adding gabions (wire cages or baskets filled with rock, concrete, sand or earth) in an effort to control erosion. ◆