The Naperville Park District is going to the goats.
And that’s a good thing, say organizers of the plan to bring in a herd of goats to deal with some unwanted plants at Knoch Knolls Park.
Beginning Tuesday, a herd of nearly four-dozen bearded grazers will descend upon the park, to begin clearing a five-acre area of invasive, non-native species of plants. The site is located north of the West Branch of the DuPage River and west of the existing parking lot at the park.
The “grazing” effort is being conducted in order to make room for an expanded disc golf course.
Project manager for the Park District Peggy Pelkonen said she read an article in a newspaper a few weeks ago about a woman named Kim Hunter and her “Green Goats in Wisconsin” business that aroused her curiosity.
“I wound up giving her a call and found out how this would work,” Pelkonen said. “Basically, she is going to bring her goats down here in trailers and they are going to be here for about four weeks. We have poison ivy and buckthorn and cherry saplings in the area and the goats come out and eat all of it. I was told they love the poison ivy so much, they’ll get on their hind legs and eat it from out of the trees.”
The goats will be kept penned up behind an electrical fence that will be erected before their arrival. Visitors are encouraged to come out and watch the food fest, but may not touch the fence or the animals.
Pelkonen said she’s been assured Naperville’s newest visitors will relish the cuisine at Knoch Knolls.
“The goats are happy to eat the unwanted plants and this is a project that would involve a lot of manpower and machines that are no longer necessary,” she said. “The cost of bringing the goats here and keeping them penned up for a month is less than $5,000, which is a lot cheaper than what it would cost to hire the necessary manpower.”
Hunter said she began renting her goats out in 2008. Last year due to the drought, a number of jobs were canceled, she said, but this year, her troops have put in some 30- and 40-day stints.
“We’ve done about eight or nine jobs this year, and before I come, I do a site visit to see if it’s appropriate for goats,” she said. “Sometimes people see a few weeds in their yard and think they need the goats, whereas it’s much more advantageous to just hire someone.
“But the goats are useful when you’re talking about some big acreage.”
Hunter called the goats “natural browsers” and said the job they are about to undertake here in Naperville “is something they love to do all day long.”
“The goats just eat and eat and eat, and finally when they are stuffed, they lie down and chew their cud,” she said. “As far as moving them around all over in trailers, they don’t mind. They never lay down on the job.”
Hunter estimated it would take four weeks to complete the Knoch Knolls job, based on studies she conducted.
“We found that the goats clear about 300 square feet a day of medium-density growth, and if there is thicker vegetation, it takes a little longer,” she said.
The removal of the invasive plants is a necessary step in order to expand the existing nine-hole disc golf course to an 18-hole course next spring, Park District officials said.
The project is part of the overall park improvements leading up to the construction of the district’s Nature Center at Knoch Knolls Park, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.