Town to rent goats to browse park woods

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Goats are the town’s choice to remove pesky undergrowth and English ivy in Windsor Castle Park — from the kayak launch to the area around the new barns.

Goats have become the latest tool for localities and individuals dealing with wayward vegetation. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Smithfield Town Council recently approved of renting goats for $1,000 a month to clear a path for Windsor Castle Trail Doctors to finish off the invasive English ivy choking trees at the park. 

Apparently the undergrowth, which includes poison ivy, has made it difficult for the park’s battalion of trail doctors to get at the ivy, said Smithfield Director of Planning, Engineering and Public Works William Saunders. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

It’s expected that it will take a month to clear the undergrowth, according to committee meeting minutes. 

Once the area is cleared, the trail doctors can get in and actually cut the vines, said Saunders.

Mayor Carter Williams warned in July that unless that vegetation is removed, there won’t be a tree left in that area due to the English ivy. 

Williams estimates that half of the trees in that area have been lost to English ivy.

The thicket, however, provides habitat to wildlife at the park, including deer, rabbits and birds that feed on the undergrowth. 

Some residents have recently expressed dismay over the town’s plan to clear that area, namely due to the loss of wildlife habitat. 

Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Novak said the trees could fall and hurt park patrons. 

“The goal is to preserve the large, old trees,” she said.  

Williams said the birds and rabbits will be fine and there’s too many deer in the park anyway. The area is not going to cleared enough for people to walk around in, just cleaned up, he said. 

The rent-a-goats are coming from Suffolk, but Town Council member Mike Smith, who knows the individual with a supply of goats, did not want to release his name. 

Because of the heat, Smith believes the project will begin in the late summer or early fall. 

The goats will be fenced and the owner will check on them twice a day, according to meeting minutes.  

The use of goats to clear the landscape in Portsmouth wasn’t as successful as city officials may have wanted. 

Sixteen goats and sheep acquired to clear the grass at Craney Island landfill likely died four years after the program was initiated, according to the Virginian-Pilot. 

In that case, the city bought the goats and sheep and considered the project an experiment, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The city has since purchased a specialty mower.

The Internet is full of companies that offer rental goats to clear vegetation.  {/mprestriction}