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Lucy Gardner

New Goat Crew Arrives on Lookout Hill

August 15, 2017

As you may have “herd,” the Prospect Park Alliance Natural Resources Crew received some new additions this July. Four new goats, Lily Belle, Eyebrows, Horatio and Swiss Cheese, have arrived on Lookout Hill, a patch of woodlands and one of the highest points in the Park, located behind the newly restored Wellhouse. Like previous goats that have resided in Prospect Park, these four are tasked with clearing vegetation from wooded areas plagued by invasive species in order to make room for native species that will be planted by Alliance staff next fall. These goat, however, are also part of a new research project with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

Although the goats are just arriving on the scene, Prospect Park Alliance’s Landscape Management team has been hard at work in this location for nearly a year. Lookout Hill was selected for restoration because of the severe damage storms such as Hurricane Sandy have inflicted on the area, similar to the Vale of Cashmere. The restoration work in both areas is made possible through $1.2 million in funding from the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grant Program for Historic Properties, administered by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Eighty trees on Lookout Hill were either damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, leaving room for sun-loving invasive species to take over, damaging the ecosystem. According to Mary Keehbauch, the Alliance’s Natural Resources Crew foreperson, the ultimate goal is to “diversify native plant species in a sustainable way.” This means removing the invasives and replacing them with native species without using chemicals or other methods of removal that might harm the local environment.   

In October 2016, a team of Alliance staff partnered with the USFS to perform an initial assessment of the health of the Lookout Hill woodlands. The team was trained by Dr. Rich Hallett, a USFS research scientist, in the protocol for mapping, monitoring and recording the health of forested areas. Throughout the Lookout Hill restoration, the Prospect Park Alliance Natural Resources Crew will continue to monitor the health of the area, and the data collected will be part of a larger effort by the USFS to survey and protect urban forests. During their time in the Park, Lily Belle, Eyebrows, Horatio and Swiss Cheese will be rotated throughout five plots within the area. The health of these "goat" plots will be compared to "goat-less: plots, where Alliance staff will be clearing manually.

The results of this study will help determine the effect that goats have on urban woodlands restoration, and help the Alliance in the future care of the Park's 250 acres of woodlands. Over the past three decades, the Alliance has invested more than $15 million to restore and revitalize the Park's woodlands, which were previously in severe decline, including the planting of more than 500,000 trees, plants and shrubs.

Anecdotally, the new herd seems to be nothing short of goat superstars. These goats are younger and less domesticated than previous Prospect Park goats, making them particularly voracious. “They’ve cleared it like champs,” said Keehbauch, “you must come and see them.”