NCTD pumps up removal of tire-popping goathead thorns

Goathead plants, which produce multipronged thorns, are being removed more frequently.
Goathead plants, which produce multipronged thorns, are being removed more frequently.
( / U-T San Diego file photo)

Goathead thorns, known for puncturing bicycle tires on Coast Highway 101 and Vulcan Avenue in Encinitas, are now being removed more frequently.

The North County Transit District monitors probation crews that take out goathead plants and the thorns they produce by hand near the rail corridor, from Encinitas Boulevard to La Costa Avenue.

Previously, this occurred once or twice a month, but NCTD recently stepped up the frequency to weekly after hearing from the community, said Dahvia Lynch, NCTD chief planning officer.

“In the past, community members who have been aware of the issue have asked that we actively get probation crews out there,” Lynch said, adding that the recent redoubling of efforts is based on further input received during Encinitas City Council meetings.

In addition to the crews, NCTD sprays a pre-emergent herbicide every March and another herbicide in September near the railway.

Lynch said the goathead situation has gotten better over the last year. Crews on March 24 found few plants in the area, she said.

“We’ll continue to monitor and get our crews out there,” she said.

Weekly sweeps, which began this week, will continue through the foreseeable future. Removals could be scaled back, though, if the thorns are largely eradicated over a long period, Lynch said.

During an Encinitas City Council agenda item on safe routes to schools last week, several residents said goathead thorns can make it difficult to bike or walk near Paul Ecke Elementary, which is on Vulcan Avenue.

Councilman Tony Kranz, the city’s representative on the NCTD board, said at the meeting he’s been active in working with NCTD to eliminate goathead thorns on Vulcan Avenue.

“I think there is improvement,” Kranz said. “But I’m counting on all you to make sure to let me know if things get bad again.”

An invasive plant, the goathead is native to southern Europe and other areas; it can grow under a variety of conditions.

Dahvia said goatheads become an issue when it’s warmer in the spring and summer. She noted NCTD has spent $15,000 on mitigation measures, including probation crews and herbicides.