Residents in Gilcrest try spraying, mowing and controlled burns to manage tumbleweeds piling up

GILCREST, Colo. - They're blocking roads, piling up in yards and inciting lawsuits in Gilcrest, Colo.

Tumbleweeds are out of control in some tiny Colorado towns, and there's only a few ways to stop them.

"Really, the best thing to do is to spray them [with weed killer], and it's pretty expensive to spray them," said Jeff Nelson, mayor of Gilcrest. "The next thing I have people do is mow. If they can keep it mowed, it takes about three times a year during the summer to keep them knocked down."

Located 40 miles north of Denver, near Greeley, much of the area around Gilcrest is undeveloped land. The spaces are undisturbed or unmaintained, and perfect for growing the Russian thistle that eventually lets go of its roots and blows wherever the wind takes it. Russian thistle was introduced to the U.S. as a contaminant of North Dakota flax seed in the 1800s, according to the Colorado State University Extension.

Nelson said that some land owners had to be taken to court in order to convince them to help prevent the weeds from growing and collecting throughout the town. Tumbleweeds don't burn well unless compacted first, and accumulate so quickly that tossing them in a trash can isn't an option.

"I've seen people drag them into the street so they go to their neighbors," Nelson said. "Let them blow a little further."

Preventative maintenance is the best option, he said, but even mowing the plants before they become tumblers doesn't always work.

"They're dirty rascals," Nelson said. "When you mow them, then they grow closer to the ground."

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