Until Now, the Only Goats In Minnesota Were Field Goal Kickers

How do they control weeds in Minneapolis parks? Mostly, they don’t: park employees just mow them along with the grass. But for some invasive species, the city has been using Roundup, the world’s most common herbicide. Anti-herbicide activists don’t like that, and they showed up in force at a recent Park Board meeting to demand alternatives:

The Minneapolis Park Board is considering two new tactics in the battle against weeds and invasive species — less pesticide in neighborhood parks and, where there’s room to roam, goats. …

The plans were termed a “small victory” by one leader among several dozen anti-pesticide activists who packed Wednesday’s board meeting to press for a ban. But Russ Henry, a potential Park Board candidate, said the activists’ goal is to eliminate further use of pesticides and convert to organically managed parks. …

“Transition to organic parks, or we will work to elect commissioners who will,” Henry said.


“Organic parks” may include the use of goats as weed-eaters:

A switch to goats isn’t a cure-all, according to one who has used them. Tim Reese, farm manager at Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista, part of Three Rivers, said goats require good fencing, human oversight, predator protection and lots of follow-up.

If goats are fenced in, does that mean that people are fenced out? Or are visitors to the parks expected to mingle peaceably with the goats? Do members of the Park Board have much experience with goats? I suspect not.

Reese emphasized that goats were only a starting point in the farm’s goal of converting a small acreage to a woodland pasture. Repeated grazing by goats knocked back the invasive vegetation, but pigs were used to feed on the following year’s regrowth.

So are Minneapolis parks to be turned into barnyards, basically? To avoid using Roundup?

People also removed stems before the area was seeded in native grasses suitable under oak trees. Sheep and cattle still graze the plot to assure that invasives don’t return.

Sounds like a practical solution as long as they aren’t talking about, say, baseball diamonds.

Erwin wants to try the goats, something Minneapolis Park Board commissioners Brad Bourn and Annie Young long have favored, in areas of the park system more beset by invasive species and somewhat buffered from nearby residents. The goats would be fenced in.

If that means people are fenced out, what’s the point? If people are denied access, they might as well use herbicides, or flamethrowers, or whatever to control the buckthorn.

It turns out there is one more obstacle standing between the Minneapolis Park Board and a herd of goats: goats are illegal in Minneapolis.

One place he has suggested is near the intersection of Wirth Parkway and Glenwood Avenue in Theodore Wirth Park, where tree cover was lost to a 2011 tornado, allowing buckthorn to flourish. That area also has the advantage of being outside the city limits. Current city ordinance generally excludes hoofed animals, but Erwin said some in City Hall are willing to amend that.

No doubt the unintended consequences of loosing hoofed animals in Minneapolis’s parks would be few. It’s just another day in the life of one of America’s loonier cities.