Frequenters of Chestermere’s off-leash area near John Peake Park will see some additional furry faces throughout the summer, as the City of Chestermere introduces a team of hungry goats to help control noxious and invasive weeds.
According to Rick Van Gelder, parks supervisor with the City, more than 300 goats will visit the city during three planned sessions to target broadleaf weeds – the main issue in the off-leash area north of the library.
“This is kind of a unique spot – we’re trying to do some developing to it over the next three years, and we want it to be a natural area,” he said. “We didn’t want to go in with lawn mowers and machines and start spraying chemicals, but we are trying to make it healthier for the animals going through.”
After the problem weed species in the area were identified, Van Gelder said the City began examining potential solutions – including target browsing with goats. According to the City’s website, it follows an Integrated Pest Management practice in an effort to protect native plants and animals from invasive species “in the least environmentally impacting way possible.”
“The City of Calgary had also done this in the past, so we did a little bit of research to see how it would fit with our current practices and decided to run with it,” Van Gelder said. “It’s kind of a pilot project for us, to see how it works.”
The initial visit, which ran from May 14 to 18, was the most intensive, Van Gelder said. Now that the goats have eliminated the majority of the weeds, the parks department will monitor the area to see when the goats will need to be brought back. According to Van Gelder, the follow-up sessions should require fewer goats for a shorter time.
“When the goats are here, the park is still not closed – we just ask that people keep their dogs on leashes during their visits,” he said. “There is some electric fencing around the sections the goats are working, so people can still come and watch the goats, but it’s not a petting zoo.”
While this first visit kept the goats busy, Van Gelder said during the next visit, an educational component will be incorporated to allow the community to get to know the visiting goats. Although a date has not been determined, Van Gelder said the City will work with the Chestermere Public Library to organize the meet-and-greet event.
“We do have a lot of people who are curious, so we want to give them a chance to learn more about the project and the goats,” he said. “At this point, we’re anticipating the next visit to happen at the end of June or early in July, but that depends on how the weeds respond after this first chomp-down.”
For more information, visit chestermere.ca