South Portland gets goats to clean up park

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A herd of eight goats is foraging for food and helping to shape up the city’s landscape at the same time. 

The Parks and Water Resource Protection departments have partnered to improve an underutilized 1-acre park along the city’s Greenbelt and the goats are a big part of that objective.

Yerxa Park is heavily vegetated with invasive plants and isn’t inviting to the public, according to the city. Scape Goats, a business from Kennebunk that rents out goats to eat invasive vegetation such as knotweed and bittersweet, has been hired to provide the goats for the task. The goats will be at the park through early next week.

Karl Coughlin, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, came up with the idea half-jokingly, but it snowballed from there, Director Kevin Adams said.

The option is environmentally friendly, in line with the city’s sustainability objectives, and economical, Adams added at the park on Wednesday. 

Coughlin said the goats have fantastic personalities and are enjoyable, loving animals.  

Former City Councilor Rosemarie DeAngelis, who lives next to the park, said it’s nice to have such a positive activity in the city, adding she supports the city’s pesticide ordinance and is herself an organic gardener.

“I just think it’s a fabulous way to naturally deal with the issue,” DeAngelis said. 

A $15,000 grant from the city’s Community Development Block Grant program will cover the cost of the $600 week-long goat rental. 

A dense stand of Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants that covers a section of the park will be removed by the herd. The project will also demonstrate the use of invasive plant management practices that don’t rely on synthetic pesticides, as required by the City’s Pesticides Use Ordinance, according to a press release from the city. 

After the goats have completed their task, used carpet or heavy landscaping cloth will be placed over the knotweed-infested area for about two years before establishing native plantings and installing a trail, signs and additional benches, according to the Parks Department. 

The conceptual plan that will serve as a project roadmap was developed recently by Addie Halligan, who is working with the Water Resource Protection Department as an intern. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twtter @JulietteLaaka.

Karl Coughlin, deputy director of the South Portland Parks and Recreation Department, feeds Gerry and Succotash a sprig of knotweed Sept. 5 at Yerxa Park, where the goats will spend a week helping to remove invasive plants. 

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