Pittsburgh parks turning to goats to fight knotweed, other pesky plants
Pittsburgh officials think goats — yes, goats — are the answer to eliminating knotweed and other pesky plants that jeopardize trees and crowd out native flora in city parks.
Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday unanimously advanced legislation that would bring a herd of 10 goats and one miniature donkey named Hobo to graze in sections of Highland, Emerald View and West Penn parks this summer.
Nonprofit Tree Pittsburgh is contracting the service through Steel City Grazers, which owns the goats and donkey, and paying for it with a $10,000 grant from the Allegheny County Conservation District, said Danielle Crumrine, Tree Pittsburgh's executive director.
“These plants overgrow and take out the trees, and then you have major (hillside) stabilization issues,” Crumrine said. “If we don't take drastic measures and do something about this now, we're going to face a lot of major problems on our hillsides.”
The goats will arrive in Highland Park around mid-June and be penned behind a portable electric fence that is not harmful to humans and a second snow fence barrier. They will move to the other parks as they finish browsing off the brush-clogged areas.
“A couple of years ago, there was a demonstration project in West Penn Park,” said Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable. “It was a very successful project. These goats can get into areas that we would not normally be able to get into.”
Gable said there will be no cost to the city.
Crumrine said volunteers from Tree Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Mt. Washington Community Development Corp. will follow and plant trees and native ground covers in spots the goats clear.
Carrie Pavlik of Pittsburgh's Allentown neighborhood, who owns Steel City Grazers, said her Nubian, Nigerian dwarf and Saanen goats browse leaves off brush, which kills the plants. She said Hobo the donkey is there to provide protection from animals such as dogs and coyotes.
“He stomps his feet,” she said.
Pavlik, who keeps two dairy goats at her home, started Steel City Grazers in 2015 and houses her herd at the Carrie Furnace historic site in Swissvale. She is searching for a permanent home for them.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.