Prospect Park Alliance

Goats Return to Prospect Park!

May 16, 2017

Back for a second year, Prospect Park Alliance’s beloved herd of goats has returned to the Park as part of the Alliance’s woodland restoration efforts. “It is great to have the goats back to continue their important work,” said Mary Keehbauch, the foreperson of the Alliance’s Natural Resources Crew, which oversees woodland restoration in the Park.

Throughout the Park, storms like Hurricane Sandy felled or damaged over 500 trees, enabling invasive weeds to thrive and overtake the woodlands—harming this fragile ecosystem. In the Park’s northeast corner, where over 50 trees were damaged or destroyed, goats will be working alongside Prospect Park Alliance staff to restore the woodlands, continuing their work from last year. 

“Woodland restoration has always been an important focus for the Alliance,” said Sue Donoghue, Prospect Park Alliance President. “These goats provide an environmentally friendly approach to our larger efforts, and help us make the Park more resilient to future storms.”

Prospect Park Alliance received $727,970 in funding from the National Parks Service through the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grant Program for Historic Properties, administered by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The grant not only funds woodland restoration, but historic preservation work in this landscape, known as the Vale of Cashmere. The Alliance also received an additional grant for work later this summer on Lookout Hill, for a total of $1.2 million in funding.

Goats are prodigious climbers and aren’t picky eaters: they have four stomachs and can consume 25 percent of their bodyweight in vegetation each day. They devour the weeds down to their roots, forcing the plants to use all their energy to grow new shoots, only to be eaten by the goats once again. The goats keep eating until the plants do not have enough energy to grow back at all. When their work is complete, Prospect Park Alliance will plant new native trees and shrubs—red and white oaks, spicebush and service berry—which will help bring back important habitat for birds and other wildlife

The goats, contained behind construction fencing, are provided by Green Goats, a goat farm in Rhinebeck, NY, that specializes in landscape restoration. Of the four-goat crew, only one is from last year’s herd—Max, a black pygmy goat. The other three—named Cinnamon, Swirl and Unicorn—are toggenburgs, a Swiss breed of goat known for their productivity.

Later in the summer, the herd will move to another woodland area of the Park, Lookout Hill, to help restore storm damage in this section of the Park. The goats will eat all the invasive weeds that have overtaken these areas, so that the Alliance can plant new native trees and plants to beautify the landscape and bolster natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, ensuring the Park is more resilient against future storms.