On July 3, the Tennessee Clean Water Network, WhistlePig Farms, and the City of Knoxville introduced goats to the Williams Creek Urban Forest to clear invasive weeds. The goats will stay in the forest through October 2013. Columnist Eleanor Scott took a peek at the goats in action.
A light rain fell as members of the public, many with small children, welcomed a herd of more than 20 goats to the Williams Creek Urban Forest in East Knoxville last week. Richard Gibbs of Whistlepig Farm parked his trailer in the middle of Dailey Street and unloaded the goats to many "oohs" and "awws" from the small crowd. Mostly nannies with kids, the goats are confined by a portable electric fence to three wooded acres, choked with privet and Japanese honeysuckle. The goats' job is simple: to eradicate these invasive plants by eating them.
In a few months, the goats will be rotated into an adjacent two-acre clearing to eat back the kudzu draping everything in a curtain of green.
The Williams Creek Urban Forest is a five-acre parcel of undeveloped land, acquired by the Tennessee Clean Water Network and deeded to the city in 2012. According to TCWN executive director Renee Hoyos, future plans include buying several more undeveloped lots adjacent to the current property, permanently closing part of Dailey Street, and building a walking trail through the forest.
Hoyos did some "back of the envelope calculations" and discovered that East Knoxville has the fewest miles of greenway of any part of town, making a project like the Williams Creek Greenway essential.
Acquiring the land was the first step, says Hoyos. The goats are part of the second step--clearing the property of trash and invasive plants so visitors can walk through the forest without fighting their way through dense undergrowth and piles of garbage. When the city acquired the land, it had be used as an unofficial dump for years. 535 tires were hauled away, among other trash.
Contrary to popular belief goats do not eat garbage, though they will eat almost any plant, including poison ivy. Crews of city maintenance workers could trim back the undergrowth, but that would be a temporary solution. Hoyos says that after three years of grazing goats, the invasive plants should be so damaged they will not come back. Mature trees should remain undamaged.
How did TCWN, a non-profit corporation that advocates for clean water issues, find itself partnering up with a herd of goats?
According to a press release, "Willams Creek is listed on the Tennessee List of Impaired Waterbodies for habitat alteration and E. coli contamination."
By replacing a garbage dump on the creek bank with an "interpretive walking trail," the project hopes to remove Williams Creek from that list.
Here are some photos from the goat invasion on July 3:
Tennessee forest goats: Within a few minutes, the goats had melted into the forest, ravenously consuming all Japanese honeysuckle in their path.
Keisha Walker and her three-year-old grandson, Tre'veyon came to meet their new neighbors, the goats.
Richard Gibbs of Whistlepig Farm. The farm rents out goats for invasive plant removal.