Earlier this week, hundreds of local residents, news outlets, and local school children packed into Riverside Park at 120th Street to see a herd of 24 goats released into the park

The spectacle kicked off the Riverside Park Conservancy’s GOaTHAM, an initiative to use “retired” goats from a local farm to help clear out a surge of invasive species from a hard-to-access area of the park. From this week until Aug. 30, the team of goats will be noshing on poison ivy, bittersweet, wineberry, and more.

This will be the first time goats are being used in this manner in Manhattan. Previously, they were used in Prospect Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park. At Riverside Park, the sloped, two-acre area from 119th to 125th Streets has been fenced off to ensure the goats are contained and safe. As explained by the Conservancy:

“Throughout the season, the goats will continuously consume the weeds all the way down to the roots, which stunts the plants’ normal growth trajectory by making them start all over — only to be eaten again. After a few months, the plants’ ability to grow will have been weakened, and perhaps eliminated altogether.”

 

Moreover, goats can consume 25 percent of their body in vegetation, and their fecal matter actually adds nutrients back into the soil. And since they have better knees than people, it’s much safer for them to be on these hilly parts.

Interestingly, NYC’s nickname Gotham was derived from “Goat Town,” a put-down towards the city that Washington Irving popularized when the Upper West Side was still open farmland filled with more goats than people. Not only does GOaTHAM reference this historic moniker, but it also makes a nod to the goat beauty pageants that were once held by beer brewers in Central Park.

The 24 GOaTHAM goats–each with their own name and unique personality–have been profiled on the Conservancy website for fans to vote on their favorite. Their profiles are also hung on a fence in the park for passersby to see. Once their three-month residency is complete, the goats will head back to Green Goats farm in Rhinebeck (this farm has actually been loaning its goats to parks across the country for 14 years). Gardeners for the Conservancy will then plant native plants where the weeds once grew.

This story was provided to Metro through an agreement with 6sqft. Visit 6sqft.com for more New York City neighborhood news.

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