Dorchester Park is home to several walking trails, playgrounds, and tennis courts, but it is also home to lots of poison ivy, a native plant that has been a problem in the park for years.
To get rid of it, and some invasive plants, park officials did not turn to the usual landscapers. Instead, they brought in goats.
Four goats have been hired for a month-long stint to clear the 26-acre park of invasive species such as knotweed, bittersweet, cat briar, and poison ivy. The goats eat the plants, and are immune from the itchy reactions humans have.
The goats love the work, said Lisa Ahern, the event coordinator for the Dorchester Park Association, a group of neighbors and park patrons who started the initiative to bring the goats to the park.
“When the goats were placed in the park around 1 p.m. [Thursday] they started eating right away,” Ahern said. “After sunset, they were still eating.”
“We have a really good feeling about this,” she said, adding that Dorchester park is like goat heaven with its dense oak and beech forests and large rock formations.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.
The goats are being kept behind solar-powered electric fences that keep curious onlookers out, and the goats in. The park is also home to coyotes, foxes, and dogs. A brief touch of the fence sends a mild electric shock. The association made sure to post do-not-touch signs on the fences’ perimeter.
“The goats seem pretty happy eating,” said David Mareira, a member of the park association. “They don’t seem that interested in making a run for it.”
The goats were rented from a goatscaping company in Plymouth, Ahern said. They cost $400 per week, or $100 per goat per week, which is “tremendously” cheaper than hiring human landscapers, she said, and a great alternative to pesticides.
“Asking 12 to 16 people to clear brambles and poison ivy in a 26-acre park is a lot to ask,” Mareira said, “even for the most committed people.”
The goats have caught the attention of residents in the area, who have reached out to the association in hopes of renting a goat for their own backyard.Katie Camero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @camerokt_