2016: The Goats have Arrived!
May 18, 2016
On Monday, the Prospect Park Alliance welcomed a herd of goats to restore woodlands damaged by Hurricane Sandy and other severe storms (including a 2010 tornado!) in the northeast corner of Prospect Park—one of the hardest hit areas, which lost more than 50 trees.
In the absence of trees, invasive plants proliferated, damaging habitat and causing erosion. Removing these weeds is a more complex task than you’d expect. "The area's steep hillsides present unique challenges for staff and machinery, but are easily accessible to goats," said Christian Zimmerman, Prospect Park Alliance Vice President of Capital and Landscape Management.
The herd of eight goats—a mix of Nubian, Angora and Pygmy breeds—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’ll 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 eventually the plants do not have enough energy to grow back at all. The goats, contained behind eight-foot-high construction fencing, are provided by Green Goats, a goat farm in Rhinebeck, NY, that specializes in landscape restoration.
"Once their work is complete, we will then plant new native trees and shrubs, including red and white oaks, spicebush and service berry, which will help bring back important habitat for birds and other wildlife,” adds Zimmerman. Prospect Park is home to Brooklyn's last remaining forest. The goats’ work is important not just to beautifying the Park, but also to fortify habitat and food sources for local fauna, including countless native and migratory bird species.
"Woodland restoration has always been an important focus for the Alliance,” said Sue Donoghue, Prospect Park Alliance President. "These goats will provide an environmentally friendly approach to our larger efforts, and help us make the Park more resilient to future storms."
The 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 future work on Lookout Hill, for a total of $1.2 million in funding.