Goats will run free on the islands at Gallup Park for at least three weeks this summer as the city pilots an increasingly popular brush management technique known as “goatscaping.” Milan’s Twin Willow Ranch will provide ten of its fifty goats for three weeks starting in June, at a price of $1,625–$50 per goat per week, plus setup and transportation. An electric fence will corral the goats at night and keep them from escaping to the mainland. With the exception of several staff-led walk-throughs, the islands will be closed to humans while the goats are grazing.
Erika Pratt, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the city’s GIVE 365 program, says she and her colleagues became interested in goatscaping after reading about successful efforts in cities from Milan (Michigan) to Boston. Goats eat invasive plants like buckthorn and “they love poison ivy,” Pratt says. However, “it’s not an ideal solution for every type of park environment.” The goats will eat pretty much anything, she explains, so they’re best suited for areas with heavy concentrations of invasive plants, where management requires an axe and not a scalpel.
Other important logistical questions remain. “We’re trying to decide: should we put a volunteer T-shirt on the goats, or are they staff?” Pratt says. “I’m just kidding. They won’t be in T-shirts.”