Thursday, July 31, 2014

Boston Enlists Goats to Fight Invasive Plants

source image courtesy of buzzfeed

The City of Boston is enlisting the aid of some skilled four-legged helpers in order to combat poison ivy, buckthorn, Japanese knotweed, and other invasive plant species growing on Boston Parks and Recreation Department property. The Parks Department has teamed up with the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation (SWBCDC) and The Goatscaping Company of Duxbury and Plymouth to host a small group of goats at the West Street Urban Wild in Hyde Park as a sustainable approach to landscape management.

“Goats are an eco-friendly way to regulate overgrowth and manage pests and weeds, while giving nutrients back to the earth,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I’m pleased that the Parks Department is innovating in their lot care, and I look forward to seeing the results of the goat’s work.”

 The idea was generated when teenagers from the Hyde Park Green Team, SWBCDC’s environmental education and job readiness program, approached Mayor Martin J. Walsh to discuss goatscaping at the May 27 Mayor’s Neighborhood Coffee Hour at McGann Playground.  Intrigued by the concept and the Green Team’s enthusiasm, Mayor Walsh directed Interim Parks Commissioner Chris Cook to work with SWBCDC on the project.

 Goats are currently used on Boston’s Harbor Islands and in other states and major cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., as a safe and responsible way of managing overgrown and invasive vegetation. They do their work quietly and without disturbance, unlike expensive and noisy machinery, or herbicides which can be toxic. There is no hauling or dumping of debris as the goats eat the invasive plants, digest them removing harmful seeds and oils, and then deposit a clean and odorless natural fertilizer back into the landscape. They are also tick resistant, reduce the risk of wildfires, and do not damage the soil thanks to their small hooves.

 Four goats will live on-site at the West Street Urban Wild for eight weeks. A low-voltage, solar-powered electric fence will be installed to keep the goats in and coyotes out. The fence is not harmful to humans, including children and the elderly, even those with pacemakers. The goats will have a small hut for shelter. Supplemental water, hay, and grain will be stored on the site.

 The public is welcome to view the goats. The goats won’t bite or buck and are very accustomed to the presence of people of all ages. City officials warn, however, that the animals will be living among and eating poison ivy plants and will have poison ivy oils on their fur. The public should not to pet them. In addition, visitors should not tease or feed the goats.

 Teenagers from the Hyde Park Green Team will check on the goats daily, and provide them with fresh water and the proper amount of supplemental grain and hay. Any residents interested in helping to help feed and water the goats on weekends must first call (617) 364-7300 to receive a short training from SWBCDC staff.

Ryan Woods, Boston Parks Department

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