Free to roam: P’Park weed-eating goats leave meadow, face uncertain future

Goats return to clean Prospect Park!
Community News Group / Colin Mixson

Talk about being put out to pasture!

Prospect Park officials laid off the meadow’s seasonal staff of weed-munching goats earlier this month, and honchos are not yet sure if they’ll have the means to bring the beloved bleaters back for a third time next year, according to a green-space rep.

“We have a lot of places in the park that have invasive plants, but we don’t have anything funded, so it’s not clear whether they’ll be coming back,” said Christian Zimmerman, vice president of capital and landscape management for the Prospect Park Alliance, a private group that tends the lawn in collaboration with the city.

In May, meadow caretakers hired four cloven-footed laborers from an upstate farm to clear unwanted weeds including poison ivy from the Vale of Cashmere and Lookout Hill. And now the park’s two-legged employees are planting seeds there as part of a federally funded, woodland-restoration project on the land manicured by the grass gobblers, which toiled diligently, according to an alliance spokeswoman.

“They’re very wonderful workers,” said Lucy Gardner.

The horned landscapers also participated in a United States Forest Service study during their time in Brooklyn’s Backyard, which gathered data on their effectiveness by monitoring their progress on Lookout Hill. Previously, all evidence of the animals’ workplace productivity was anecdotal, according to Zimmerman.

“People have been using goats for a long time, but all the evidence is anecdotal,” he said. “There hasn’t been any data, and we’d like to be able to quantify it.”

This year’s goats followed a herd of eight contracted by the alliance in 2016, which was brought in to eat away undesirable vegetation that sprouted in the vale after 2012’s superstorm Sandy.

But the weed munchers may have eaten themselves out of their next job, according to Zimmerman, who said that while there may be more work to do at Lookout Hill, meadow honchos won’t know whether new growth will justify the goats’ return until April 2018.

And some park employees are already pining for their one-time coworkers.

“Of course I miss them,” Gardner said. “They’re valued colleagues of mine.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.