Goats eating their way through underbrush at Bradley Lake Park in Puyallup are doing more than just filling their bellies.
The city of Puyallup launched a Bradley Lake Goat Vegetation Management Project on Tuesday to remove invasive plant species from the park, including English ivy, Scotch broom and blackberry bushes.
As they clear the underbrush, the goats also increase visibility for police officers patrolling the area.
“You have more clarity through the wooded area and it makes people feel safer,” said Sarah Harris, Puyallup Parks and Recreation director. “For people walking through here, it’s not so isolated.”
You have more clarity through the wooded area and it makes people feel safer. For people walking through here, it’s not so isolated.
Sarah Harris, Puyallup Parks and Recreation director
The parks department worked with Puyallup police and owner of the goats, Tammy Dunakin, to create a clearer line of sight in the park.
“Having it opened up, (officers) can patrol from a distance,” said Dunakin, whose goats have also worked to clear brush from under the viaduct in Seattle.
Dunakin is the founder of Rent-A-Ruminant, which is based out of Vashon Island. Launched in 2004, Dunakin works to clear land with her group of rescue goats.
All 125 goats have names. Once they grow old and “retire” from their eating duties, they get to spend the rest of their days relaxing at home.
The goats are able to reach and clear spaces that humans cannot. It’s an environmentally-friendly alternative to machinery and pesticides, said Harris.
The goats also leave little impact on the environment. They have hefty appetites, eating about 12 hours per day, and their digestive process naturally sterilizes weed seeds.
“It’s good for the goats, it’s good for the planet and it’s good for people,” Dunakin said.
It’s good for the goats, it’s good for the planet, and it’s good for people.
Tammy Dunakin, owner of Rent-A-Ruminant
Last year, the parks department cleared parts of Bradley Lake Park using machinery. This year, it tried a different approach.
“This was the first time we’ve tried goals in any of our city parks,” Harris said. “It’s fun. It’s definitely more environmentally friendly. I think it’s been something for the community.”
The public is free to watch the goats munch away, but are asked not to touch them. An electric fence was constructed to protect the goats.
Already, passerby of all ages have to stopped to watch them.
Puyallup resident Kelly Bales enjoyed watching the goats on Thursday with her 4-year-old daughter, Addie.
“I think it’s fun — a cool way to get rid of your weeds,” Kelly said. Addie added that she liked the goats because “they’re cute.”
Another passerby remarked, “They should come to my yard next.”
The goats, which arrived to the park on Tuesday, will eat away until Sunday. By that time, they will have cleared about an acre of underbrush.
“It’s two-fold,” Harris said about the project. “(The park) gets invasive plants, so we wanted to do something about that … (and) we wanted to maintain the beauty of the park but also make it a little safer.”