Goats help tame over­grown slope at Wyman Park Dell

Hun­gry Cen­tre­ville herd spe­cial­izes in eco-friendly veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By An­gela Roberts

You’ve heard of the farmer in the dell, but this is a new one.

A bat­tal­ion of 20 goats have been un­leashed upon North Bal­ti­more’s Wyman Park Dell to do a job a lawn mower could not: tame the steep, over­grown sides of the bowl over­looked by the Bal­ti­more Mu­seum of Art.

The hun­gry horde ar­rived in the pocket park Thurs­day af­ter­noon, carted in from a Cen­tre­ville farm owned and op­er­ated by Eco-Goats, a com­pany that spe­cial­izes in the kind of en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly — and adorable — veg­e­ta­tion con­trol only goats can pro­vide.

And the furry fiends have their work cut out for them. Dur­ing the spring, as the coron­avirus pan­demic tore across the state, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that cares for the park wasn’t able to host its monthly vol­un­teer clean-up. Al­though these events are back on now, Friends of Wyman Park Dell Pres­i­dent Cailin McGough said, the patch of land the goats have been charged with munch­ing still could use some ex­tra at­ten­tion.

Lucky for the park’s new­est em­ploy­ees, the 0.65-acre hill­side is ripe with mul­ti­flora rose plants and wineber­ries — two types of veg­e­ta­tion that McGough said are tasty treats for goats.

“We love our peo­ple vol­un­teers, but

some­times there are just things that goats are bet­ter equipped to do,” she said.

This isn’t the first time goats have been brought on to tackle un­ruly slices of land in the Bal­ti­more area. Since 2014, goats from Dar­ling­ton’s Har­mony Church Farm have been trans­ported to Tow­son Univer­sity’s Glen Ar­bore­tum to put­ter around for a few days, chow­ing down on in­va­sive species.

Goats are good for veg­e­ta­tion con­trol for a lot of rea­sons, said Brian Knox, pres­i­dent of Sus­tain­able Re­source Man­age­ment Inc. and su­per­vis­ing forester for Eco-Goats. For one, he said, they can get at places ma­chines and peo­ple can’t.

Though the slope at Wyman Park Dell is quite steep, Knox said the goats pranced up and down its in­cline like it was noth­ing. Their mouths and di­ges­tive sys­tems also oblit­er­ate seeds from in­va­sive species, “with al­most no vi­a­bil­ity com­ing out the back end.”

It doesn’t hurt that they’re able to do the job her­bi­cide-free.

Ear­lier in the year, McGough said, the Friends of Wyman Park Dell tried ap­ply­ing for a grant to fund a con­tract with Eco-Goats — and, pre­sum­ably, cover the goats’ pay­checks — but the or­ga­ni­za­tion wasn’t suc­cess­ful. As sum­mer wound down, though, the group be­came res­o­lute — it would find a way to pay for the pro­ject.

“We re­ally wanted it to hap­pen in 2020, be­cause it felt like some­thing fun that could hap­pen in this hor­ri­ble year,” McGough said.

The time­line was tight. As McGough ex­plained, the goats stop their work af­ter Oc­to­ber, and don’t start back up again un­til af­ter win­ter ends.

The vol­un­teers launched a GoFundMe page in Septem­ber, bank­ing on the hope that Bal­ti­more­ans would find the con­cept of goat-pow­ered veg­e­ta­tion con­trol as fan­tas­tic as they did. They were right. In just a month, 80 peo­ple had chipped in, bring­ing the fundraiser’s grand to­tal to $3,540.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s un­ortho­dox choice of lawn care fits within its over­ar­ch­ing mis­sion, McGough ex­plained, to put Wyman Park Dell on the map. It’s a beau­ti­ful park with a ton of his­tory, but be­cause of its lo­ca­tion — wedged be­tween Charles Vil­lage and Rem­ing­ton, and hid­den from its sur­round­ing streets — many aren’t aware of its ex­is­tence, McGough said.

But over the next few days, as goats feast on a pocket of the park’s 16 acres of land, that just may change.

McGough en­cour­aged Bal­ti­more­ans to stop by the park to visit the hard-work­ing goats, keep­ing a safe dis­tance from each other and from the an­i­mals, of course. Ac­cord­ing to the group’s con­tract with Eco-Goats, the crit­ters will be sta­tioned in the dell for four to seven days.

It all de­pends on how hun­gry they are.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Nu­bian goat Fer­di­nand, part of a herd of 20 Eco-Goats from Cen­tre­ville, works to clear veg­e­ta­tion at Wyman Park Dell across from the Bal­ti­more Mu­seum of Art by eat­ing it.

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