South Portland hires goats as contract gardeners

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A herd of goats was delivered to the Pleasantdale neighborhood Wednesday morning, on a mission to help make a small, little-used waterfront park more inviting to the public.

The city has hired Scapegoats of Kennebunk to clear Yerxa Park of unwanted vegetation, including Japanese knotweed, a hard-to-kill invasive plant. The park is off Broadway, at the end of Bagley Avenue, between the greenbelt path and the Fore River.

Eight goats will be there for a week, contained within electrified fencing, eating and trampling the troublesome plants. The public is invited to stop by and see the goats at work, but Scapegoats owner Heather Lombard urged people to avoid touching the fence or feeding the goats.

The goat project costs $600 per week and is funded by a community development block grant, said Karl Coughlin, deputy parks director. It follows the city’s pesticide use ordinance, which calls for invasive plant management practices that don’t rely on synthetic pesticides or herbicides.

The goats will be brought back for a second week next spring to clear the park of tender shoots. Then, the affected areas will be covered with used carpet or heavy landscaping cloth for two to three years to snuff out the knotweed, said Fred Dillon, stormwater program coordinator.

When the park is finally cleared of unwanted vegetation, the city will install native plants, a trail, signs and additional benches according to a conceptual plan designed by Addie Halligan, an intern in the city’s Water Resource Protection Department who recently received a master’s degree in landscape design.

A goat from Scapegoats munches on knotweed at Yerxa Park in Sough Portland on Wednesday morning. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)

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