The Riverside Park Conservancy team of goats, clearing invasive plants

The goats of the Riverside Park Conservancy, working to clear invasive and undesirable plants from the parks (National Review, 2019)

The Riverside Park Conservancy of New York City are reintroducing a peculiar, but community favorite, form of conservation – Goats.

The conservancy has been using goats for 4 years now, utilizing their indiscriminate palate and small stature, to clear out invasive and harmful plants, such as poison ivy, multiflora rose, and poisonberry from their city parks. Biologically speaking this is perfect work for the goats, as CEO of Riverside Park Conservancy Merrit Birnbaum states – “It’s great, because we don’t have to use pesticides. The goats naturally love the taste of things like poison ivy. For them, it’s an all you can eat buffet.”. Jordan Martin, owner of “Green Goats”, who leases the goats to the conservancy explained, “They don’t have any problems eating poison ivy. And not only that, they can neutralize any seeds that they eat because of the mycobacterial activity in their stomach, so anything that they eat won’t get replanted.”

The RPC (Riverside Park Conservancy) used the goats alongside a “ribbon” cutting for their newest campaign, a new compost yard at their park. The conservancy has had operational issues in the area for sometime, as Park Administrator John Herrold says, “This is two exciting events in one. Of course, the goats are back. They have been taking care of the park… this is their fourth year of doing fantastic work of helping us clear some slopes that we cannot get to, they’re just too steep. But we’re combining that with the launch, the official opening of our new compost yard here. This has long been an operational compound, but it was beat up and dilapidated and just a hard place to work out of. Now we have these wonderful bins that will facilitate an organized and orderly composting operation, as well as allowing us to keep other things here that we need to use for the park.”

The goats are like local celebrities, community members came out in droves to welcome them back to the park and celebrate the new compost bins. It may not seem it, but this is a coordinated 1-2 punch by Birnbaum and the RPC, “Here in New York City, where goats are definitely not an everyday part of life, it’s a really exciting thing for the community, to bring a little bit more of the country into our community”. Working for the community to make it better, cleaner, and safer, and engaging with the public personably, the goats are the perfect catalyst to get the people involved in local conservation efforts, and shed light on events and new, beneficial additions to the community. New York resident Robert Schwarz took his children, Tycho (8) and Cleo (1), to the launch, “My kids love goats. This is Tycho and this is Cleo. Despite being in an urban environment, we love nature, and we’ve helped them develop language and whatnot through identifying animals. And goats are fun, they’re friendly, you get to feed them when you want to. They eat anything. They’re climbing. They’re good.”. Its not just the kids that have got their goat got, as adult resident Cindy Bodge came alone to see the new team of conservationists and had this to say, “They’re just so cute. They’re so lively is what I like about them. And then they do really good for the environment. So what more can you ask? Lively environmentalists.”

The RPC hopes to continue this program every summer, and expand it beyond their own little corner of Manhattan. In the meantime you can find the goats in the Riverside area, hand in hoof with the conservationists, doing the dirty work, and being adored by their community.