Have You Herd? Goats A Smart Solution To A Serious Park Problem

August 18, 2016 by Lauryn Stalter

There's a landscaping crew working around the clock in Pittsburgh's parks and greenways, clearing hill and hollow of pesky invasive plants. This crew -- a dozen goats and their guard donkey -- is an environmentally friendly, labor-free, and downright adorable solution to the massive amount of invasive plants growing in public greenspaces.

Image: Steel City GrazersIf you've ever noticed a hillside in parks or along roadsides made up entirely of one type of plant, then you've seen an invasive takeover. Invasive plants like knotweed, mile-a-minute, Japanese honeysuckle, and porcelainberry (to name just a few) shade out plants native to Western Pennsylvania, take down trees large and small, and completely cover large swaths of land. What's worse, they lay claim to hilly areas that are hard for us humans to reach, making it extremely difficult to battle these invaders.

Until the goats.

A local group called Steel City Grazers offers a smart, elegant solution to the problem: Rueben, Cowboy, Daryln, Angel Face, Favorite, Kama, Boaz, Ozark, Twinsie, Wimpy, Butter Bailey, and Hobo. These little grazers are popping up in pens in parks and public greenspaces for a week or more, slowly munching away at the unwanted plants in their path.

Did we also mention that they fertilize? No kid-ding!

Goats grazing in Highland Park

Once these areas are clear, the goats move on and volunteers move in to clear woodier vegetation. Then, trees can be planted in these spaces where they wouldn't have had a chance to grow before.

Image of a goat eating. Photo by Nick Allen, Creative Commons (Flickr)Tree Pittsburgh first brought goats to West Penn Park as part of a pilot project in 2014. Since then, Pittsburgh City Council has voted unanimously to bring goats to sections of Highland, Emerald View, and West Penn parks.

Spot these four-legged lawnmowers munching along happily in Emerald View Park near the Saddle Trail entrance (off East Sycamore Street) this week until next and then Highland Park along Reservoir Drive.

Images: Steel City Grazers, Nick Allan 

Ecological Restoration, Highland Park, Park Threats, Emerald View Park