After invasive weeds took over Brooklyn Bridge Park's berm (a 45-foot manmade hill that acts as soundproofing for Pier 3), horticulture director Rebecca McMackin was faced with a dilemma. Pesticides were not an option due to the park's all-organic policies, and the manual labor needed to uproot the weeds was beyond impractical. McMackin and her colleagues quickly devised a plan, and that plan was goats—a popular option this summer. "The goats were the best, most logical strategy that also happened to be the most fun," McMackin says.
The four goats—brothers named Horatio, Eyebrows, Minnie and Hector—made their debut Thursday as they trotted up and down the hill, nibbling on mugwort and clover. "They don't eat the grasses as much they eat the weeds, they literally have a preference," McMackin explained. "This is a goat paradise. They're thrilled."
The goats will be allowed to freely roam the berm each day, and at night will be housed in a covered shed on the property, where they'll have access to food and water. Brooklyn Bridge Park plans to keep them for two months before reassessing if they are a sustainable answer to the weed problem. If all goes according to plan, the goats will move in permanently.
Hector, Eyebrows, Minnie, and Hector are rescues from a defunct petting zoo and are experienced working goats who have been used for weed control in other parks in the past. Cute as they may be, however, the park is going to great lengths to keep them away from people.
"In order for this project to work, they can't be disturbed by the public," McMackin stressed. "We need the public to not pester them and especially not to feed them. If they're being given food, they won't be hungry enough to eat the weeds, and if they don't do their job the project will be a failure."