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Herbicides are out and goats are in for weed control in Boulder

A young resident meets the weed-eating goats at Harlow Platts Community Park in Boulder on Saturday, July 15, 2023.
Por Jaijongkit
A young resident meets the weed-eating goats at Harlow Platts Community Park in Boulder on Saturday, July 15, 2023.

Boulder has swapped out whackers and herbicide for goats as a form of weed control at Harlow Platts Community Park.

The herd of goats was available for a Meet and Bleat event recently, and residents were able to stop by and meet the hoofed heroes that chew on noxious weeds to maintain the park’s ecology.

Erika Carlson, Ecology Lead Technician at Boulder Parks and Recreation, says the event showcases the goats and the city's goat grazing program.

"So we rotate them around the site throughout the growing season and they eat down the noxious weeds and reduce the energy store for the plants. They also eat the seeds and neutralize those seeds through their stomach system," she said.

The main species of noxious weeds that the goats control are Canada thistle, common teasel, hounds tongue, and crown vetch.

Carlson says the rain this year has made the weeds come in stronger and taller than in recent years.

"So this spot, as you can see, it's got a very steep slope and that's hard for us to mechanically control the weeds, so if we didn't have the goats, we'd be up there with weed whackers. We're not allowed to spray herbicide at this site because it's an urban park with a neighborhood nearby, kids playing around, and we don't want to be exposing folks to those herbicides," said Carlson.

"So this is kind of almost a no brainer for getting the goats here, just because there's no real other effective method that we could use at this site."

The city contracts with farmers to supply the goats.

This year they're contracting with Heather Spiker from Homestead Ranch.

"I think it's a great program. It's land reclamation as well as weed mitigation, also kind of comradery to the community," she said.

Spiker says that the program is beneficial to the goats as well as the environment.

"It gives them the ability to have free feed and it also helps with the digestive system and keeps the weeds growing back, so it's good for their gut and good for the environment."

The goats will be at Harlow Platt's community park for six more weeks, munching on any noxious weeds they can find.

Zack Thompson contributed to this story.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Por Jaijongkit is an intern in the news department at KGNU. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder pursuing environmental journalism. Coupled with her creative writing background, she hopes to use her skills to tell the stories that matter.