A unique and eco-friendly solution to tame invasive plant growth in the town’s open space areas got the go ahead from the Board of Selectmen earlier this month. The Board unanimously approved a pilot program presented by Conservation Commission vice chair Sharon Ewen to use a herd of goats to eat fast-growing plants that are running wild.
Ewen proposed hiring her Tyler City neighbor, John Suraci, to head up the “goatscaping” project, using the herd of goats he keeps fenced on his own property. The plan is expected to cost approximately $140 a week, most of which will be spent on providing electric fencing and shelter to keep the goats safe from predators. According to Ewen, the town’s many open space trails are becoming overrun with Japanese knotweed, bittersweet, bayberry and poison ivy, threatening water systems and food supplies for animals. “It is an environmentally sound and cost-effective method of controlling invasive species,” Ewen said, adding that it is too labor intensive for the town to use the Public Works Department for the job. “You need to walk the open space land and see how bad it is,” Ewen said to the Board.
Suraci told the Board his goats can clear about one third of an acre of his property in less than 40 hours, often grazing well into the night. “They do a lot of work and they don’t complain!” Suraci said. The goats will start with clearing the Ewen Farm Preserve located between St. John’s Drive and Lambert Road, which Suraci expects will take a few weeks to complete. The Board will decide whether to move the goats to other open spaces depending on the success of the “goatscaping.”
The Board’s approval is contingent on insurance and contract approval. They also asked that Ewen present a detailed report to the Board after the Ewen Preserve is cleared and keep them informed months down the road to see if the invasive species grow back.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent