Specks is a four-year-old male goat who will be helping out in Riverside Park. Photo: Larry Cihanek, courtesy of Green Goats in Rhinebeck
Beginning next week, New Yorkers will have a chance to see goats in Riverside Park.
On May 21, the Riverside Park Conservancy is welcoming a herd of 24 goats from Rhinebeck, NY, who will be assisting to remove invasive species from a two-acre area of Riverside Park’s woodland. This is part of the conservancy’s ongoing woodland restoration — a chemical-free method of controlling the growth of detrimental species and supporting the ecological health of the park. The goats are from Green Goats in Rhinebeck.
Dan Garodnick, the president and chief executive officer of the Riverside Park Conservancy, said the goats will benefit the park and be a really cool thing for people to see. He explained that while this will be the first time goats will be in a New York park, it has been done before throughout the country.
“Goats being invited to help with horticultural care is not novel,” Garodnick said. “It has been tried elsewhere, but this is the first time that we will see it in a Manhattan park.”
About a year ago the conservancy’s horticultural team was figuring out the best way to attack the woodland area and it was concluded that goats were the best option. Garodnick noted that goats can consume 25 percent of their body weight in vegetation in a day and their fecal matter provides nutrients for the soil.
Garodnick explained that the woodland area, which spans from 119th Street to 123rd Street (nicknamed “GOaTHAM” by the conservancy), is filled with mugwort, poison ivy and many other hazardous specimens.
“Our gardeners can’t access the area in the way we want to because it has steep slopes and the invasives themselves like poison ivy are not friendly to humans,” Garodnick said. “Putting the goats to work in GOaTHAM is like taking them to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s good for us and it’s good for the goats.”
According to Gardonick, the plan is to have the goats in the park for a month and then four to six of them will stay for the remainder of the summer. He noted that the goats will be fenced in and people are welcome to come look at, but not touch, them.
Once the goats make the land usable, Garodnick said the goal is to put more canopy trees there and replace the invasive specimens with more native ones.
Garodnick told the West Side Spirit that this is also an educational opportunity. The conservancy will provide free public programming about the goats and it has formed a partnership with the engineering and earth science department at Columbia University, where they will use sensors to study the nutrients and health of the soil while the goats are in the park.
“The public education is an important part of all of this,” he stressed. “We want to educate kids and park users about forest management and about how goats are chemical-free and a sustainable way of killing weeds. It’s the ultimate farm to table and we want to celebrate this moment.”