“Move over mandarin duck, there are new kids in town.” Riverside Park Conservancy President Dan Garodnick addressed a large and excited crowd of on lookers this morning waiting to welcome a herd of hungry goats to Riverside Park. The goats, who will take up residency in the park for the summer, will help the conservancy clear invasive species from the hard to reach slopes of the park’s northern section. The goats travelled down to New York City from upstate New York and were met with fanfare fitting a celebrity arrival.
Decked out in “Goatham” bandanas, t-shirts and goat masks, crowds of children and adults eagerly awaited the release of the goats from the truck that brought them down from Green Goats Farm in Rhinebeck, New York. The crowd was so impressive, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchel J. Silver said he is “going to tell [his] staff to bring goats to all of [his] ribbon cutting ceremonies.” Before the main the release, crowds were entertained with goat coloring pages, photo opportunities and stands set up by the Billion Oyster Project and other organizations to share information about New York City’s natural habitats. Just before noon, the back of the truck opened and the goats ran into the park where they got straight to work.
As councilman Steven Levin noted, the northern part of Riverside Park where the goats will roam is a “baaaaaaad area.” The hard to reach and sloping terrain of the park is filled with invasive species such as Poison Ivy, Porcelain Berry, English Ivy, Mugwort, and Multiflora Rose. These plants and vines have degraded two acres of woodland that the conservancy is attempting to reclaim through the Woodland Restoration Initiative. In addition to being hard to get to, the invasive species are harmful to humans and require a lot of time and energy to eradicate. The goats will act as a chemical-free weed removal service within a fenced in area located between approximately 119th to 125th Streets.
It’s a win-win situation, since the goats love to eat these plants, which pose no harm to them, and the weeds are taken care of with a natural and efficient method. Goats can consume 25% of their own body weight in vegetation in just one day. Shortly after being released, the goats were already deep in the woods feasting away.
Goats were once a common sight in Manhattan’s rural Upper West Side. The nickname of Gotham actually means “goat town” in Old English. They are also a fairly popular weed whacker alternative. Farm owner Larry Cihanek says he has brought goats down into New York City five times. Goats have been employed at Prospect Park, Staten Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Pelham Bay Park, but this is the first time Cihanek has brought them to Manhattan. A native Manhattanite himself, Cihanek is “delighted to have the goats come home.” The goats will go back to the farm after their summer stint in Riverside Park is over. Typically, the goats will need to return two or three times to make sure the invasive species do not grow back.
To learn more about all twenty-four goats, who each have a unique name and story, head to the Riverside Park Conservancy’s website. There you can meet Skittles, Cheech and Chong, Chewey, Bella, Bo, Buckles and the rest the goats and vote for the G.O.A.T, Greatest of All Time.
Check out more photos from this morning’s release below: