Volunteers look back on five years of maintaining the La Jolla Bike Path while making plans for its future

The La Jolla Bike Path sits primarily between Nautilus Street and Mira Monte and is used by cyclists and pedestrians.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Having ‘gotten a better handle on the trash,’ path caregivers are looking to improve vegetation, safety and signage.


As plans take shape to “re-naturalize” the La Jolla Bike Path, a five-year retrospective presentation on efforts to maintain it was given to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board at its meeting Feb. 27.

In 2018, the Parks & Beaches group voted to formalize its efforts to maintain the bike path and create a committee to pursue a fund that would cover future path maintenance expenses. Since then, the board has heard regular updates about the path and its care.

The bike path sits primarily between Nautilus Street and Mira Monte and is used by cyclists and pedestrians. Immediately east of the path are steep, sensitive slopes that contain native vegetation. There also are connecting unpaved walking paths that continue south to Camino de la Costa. Some of that section is owned by La Jolla United Methodist Church.

In recent years, volunteers have removed litter and dead brush from the path during organized cleanups. Private donors helped cover the cost of permits from the city of San Diego, along with waste containers and their removal.

“Our goal is to keep the path clean and safe while protecting the native habitat around it,” said local volunteer Debbie Adams, who leads the cleanups. “We have filled, over the last three or four years, about eight 40-[cubic-]yard dumpsters as well as numerous residential cans.”

With the recent rains, the trees, bushes, wildflowers and weeds that live along the La Jolla Bike Path have been growing and blooming.

Adams started working with the local Kiwanis Club in 2020 to obtain 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 right-of-entry permit to perform cleanups as needed.

Adams credited Kiwanis member Glen Rasmussen, who she said “knows every inch of this trail,” for shepherding the partnership.

“When Glen and I looked really into the depth of what needed to be done, we concentrated on an enormous amount of trash on the hills,” Adams said. “We set about those first two years going after trash. One day, we discovered a huge mess, so he used a rope to go down a ravine and threw the trash to me and I bagged it. We have gotten a better handle on the trash now.”

They got a surprise, she said, when they started clearing brush and trash from the south side of the path. “We kept coming across all this construction debris: rebar, wire, cement, truck axles, rusted parts, 5-gallon cans,” she said. “We discovered it used to be a dump site for construction trucks … and over the years it got buried. When we unburied it, there was so much and we had to hire professionals to help us.”

Volunteers are now focused on vegetation in the area, Adams said.

She said an emerging problem is Arundo grass, a highly flammable invasive species that can grow 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 would like to see it gone forever so we can plant some nice trees and native vegetation.”

Volunteers don’t take vegetation away from the bike path, Adams said, though they do prune parts that encroach onto it.

A “sad story with a happy ending,” she said, is that of an oak tree that was hacked by vandals, but volunteers were able to save it.

“We’ll take any opportunity to add new trees,” she said.

Another possible plan is to create a marsh-like area where there is frequent flooding. “This area pools and stays for a long time, so I had a master gardener come out recently and she felt we could fill in the pool with rocks, but the marsh would stay and we could find native plants that like the marshy environment,” Adams said. She noted, however, that still water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A section of road that intersects the La Jolla Bike Path was recently painted green to alert drivers of people crossing.
A section of road that intersects the La Jolla Bike Path was recently painted green to alert drivers that bicycles or pedestrians might be crossing.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Other changes

Adams also noted recent changes promoting safe use of the bike path.

For example, the city recently painted a green crossing where the path intersects with a street to alert drivers that pedestrians or cyclists may be present.

There also are bollards at the entrances to the path so motor vehicles cannot go onto it. However, volunteers are considering widening the space between the posts or a rearrangement so strollers and wide bikes can get through.

But Adams said more modifications are being sought. Problems at the top of the list, she said, are a barren slope that sends down mud and rocks during rains, and the need for increased and improved signage.

Signs along the La Jolla Bike Path may be updated and made more attention-grabbing.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Any new signs, she said, ideally would “tell people to be respectful of the natural habitat” and would provide clarification about who can use the path, given the growing use of electric bikes, which have a motor to assist the rider.

“The signage is so old that it doesn’t catch the attention of people on the path … so we are looking at newer, more colorful, lower signage that will clarify who is allowed to ride on the path and encourage people to slow down,” she said.

New signs could suggest a speed limit for electric bikes, which can reach speeds around 28 mph, and/or recommend that e-bikers ride single file to reduce interactions with other path users.

Parks & Beaches board member Sally Miller applauded Adams for her near-daily walking of the path to keep tabs on it. “The path is one of our best examples of open space like this and is used every day,” Miller said. “It’s a treasure for La Jolla.”

Going forward

A longer-term conceptual plan is being developed to “re-naturalize” the path. The plan is being drafted by local resident and urbanist Trace Wilson, who also is involved in plans to renovate the La Jolla Recreation Center, create a streetscape master plan and more.

Wilson and Adams cataloged the native plants in the path area and broke it into 11 segments, with a vegetation plan for each segment. Work also would entail creating a serpentine path, repairing eroded paths and adding gabions (wire cages or baskets filled with rocks, concrete, sand or soil) in an effort to control erosion. ◆