Landscaping goats return to Forest Grove
The goats are back in town.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Craig Madsen of Washington brought his herd of more than 200 goats to Forest Glen Park in Forest Grove to do some clean-up.
Madsen set up an electric fence around a large section of the weed-infested forest off the park's trail, and he and his dog herded the animals into their first day of work.
The practice of natural landscaping-by-goat has become increasingly popular over the years, said Madsen, who started his business, Healing Hooves, in 2002.
It's a practice that's been celebrated as a more eco-friendly way to landscape, and one that benefits both parties involved.
With four stomachs, the goats have no shortage of appetite, Madsen said. And the animals favor many things invasive to the area, including blackberries, English ivy, and many other weeds and undesirable vegetation.
The Forest Grove Parks & Recreation Department hired Madsen and his crew for the first time last year to clean up a section of Thatcher Park.
This year, the goats are set up at Forest Glen Park, 101 Gales Creek Road, for the week, with breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
"We started using goats last year just as an efficient and relatively inexpensive way to do 'fuel reduction,'" said parks supervisor Matt Baum. "(They) get rid of some of the invasive species that come in, especially in these areas that are kind of off the highways. It's almost all weeds up in these forests. These urban forests have a hard time keeping things out by themselves."
Baum, who has worked for the Forest Grove Parks & Recreation Department for just under three years, introduced the idea to the city after hearing about it being done in other states.
"We were just looking for ways to thin the more densely, overgrown areas and do it without massive amounts of pesticides or without burning," he said. "And having a crew come in to do it is really expensive, really loud and takes a long time, so we stumbled upon the idea of goats. I had seen it done in a couple of different spots in California … and it works. They love the invasive stuff too. They'll eat blackberries, poison oak, all the way down to the nubs. It's great."
Baum said what's interesting is that the goats operate much like a fire would.
"What they do is they create what is effectively a simulated fire environment. They move through at sort of a low-grade speed and take down everything really from about five feet (up)," he said. "You won't believe that you will be able to see the road clearly (when it's finished). It's pretty neat."
The natural vegetation management company Healing Hooves completes roughly 20 projects per year, Madsen said, from May to October across Washington and northern Oregon.
"We just move from project to project," he said. "We bring in the portable electric fencing for containing them where they are at, and then managing while they are here. And there's a guard dog in there with them just to keep an eye on things."
Forests are cleaned up, goats are fed, and then it's rest time until the next project.
The goats were expected to depart Wednesday, Sept. 18.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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