Instead of herbicides, Lawrence is using a herd of goats to weed a city park

photo by: Roger Steinbrock/Lawrence Parks and Recreation

Lawrence Parks and Recreation is using dozens of goats to remove honeysuckle in Prairie Park. A herd roamed through the park on Thursday, July 22, 2021, feasting on the invasive vine.

Updated at 8:44 p.m. Thursday

The City of Lawrence has enlisted the eager assistance of goats to help weed a city park.

The Parks and Recreation Department is using about 50 goats in Prairie Park, 2730 Harper St., to assist with eradicating honeysuckle, which is an invasive plant. The program is intended to be a natural alternative to using herbicides.

Honeysuckle has overtaken an area of the park, crowding out other species, according to Roger Steinbrock, of Parks and Rec. It might be pretty to look at it, but its spreading vines deprive native plants of nutrients and sunlight, effectively smothering them.

photo by: Roger Steinbrock/Lawrence Parks and Recreation

The City of Lawrence has brought in a team of goats, pictured Thursday, July 22, 2021, to help rid Prairie Park of invasive honeysuckle.

Steinbrock said the goats were brought in Wednesday night and had already gone to town on the honeysuckle.

“By (Thursday) morning, they had done quite a good job eradicating it,” Steinbrock said.

The goats will likely be taken away Friday or Saturday, at which time park staff will go in and cut down some of the other invasive foliage. After six to eight weeks, the goats will be brought back to eat that foliage along with any honeysuckle that has re-sprouted.

“This is a test run for the goats,” Steinbrock said, adding that other cities have had success using the voracious ruminants. Once the city assesses how well the program worked, it will determine whether to use the goats in other parks. The cost for this first project was about $1,800, the department said.

The goats come from Goats On The Go, a company owned by Guy and Beth Masters, which has been used in other cities, such as Edwardsville, to get rid of unwanted vegetation.

Goats have “a palate like humans,” according to a news release from the city. “They avoid foliage having a bitter taste and prefer vegetation that produces berries and things that are sweet like honeysuckle.”

photo by: Roger Steinbrock/Lawrence Parks and Recreation

The goats, pictured Thursday, July 22, 2021, at Prairie Park, are agile climbers and can reach areas that are difficult for humans to access.

Steinbrock noted that goats are good at reaching areas and heights that humans might have difficulty accessing.

Temporary fencing has been installed around the grazing area, and as much as people might like to watch the critters chowing down, Steinbrock said they shouldn’t try to get into the fenced area.

“We really don’t want people going back there,” he said of that area, adding that “good vantage points” were available outside the enclosure.

photo by: Roger Steinbrock/Lawrence Parks and Recreation

“Hired” goats wander through Prairie Park Thursday, July 22, 2021, munching on honeysuckle, an invasive species that the City of Lawrence is trying to get rid of without using herbicides.


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