Five Points resident Sandy Page thought she had found the coolest, greenest way to clean up some city-owned land across from her home.
When Page read a recent N&O article about goats that ate their way through the kudzu at Durham Central Park, a light bulb went off in her head. Goats would be the perfect way to clear the overgrowth of invasive species at Cowper Drive Park, the natural area between Cowper and Holt drives in Hayes Barton, just west of Five Points.
The park is very dear to Page. The Cowper Drive home she lives in has been in her family since 1939. She grew up there and spent countless hours of her childhood in that little park.
Page immediately contacted Diana Tetens, the owner of the Goat Squad, to see whether goats would be a good option for Cowper Drive Park.
Tetens showed up the very next day to survey the park and determined it would not be a problem to set up an electric net fence to contain the goats and protect them from predators. The goats would then just graze away until the job was done. She estimated the cost would be $600, so Page raised the money from her neighbors and requested permission from the city to bring in the goats.
And then she hit a snag: A state water quality regulation issue.
“There is a stream running through the middle of the park, and goats are not an approved method to remove nuisance vegetation within the 50-foot protected riparian buffer,” said Sally Thigpen, assistant park superintendent of the city’s parks and rec department.
That was not the response Page was hoping to hear.
For the past couple of years, she has worked with neighbors and community volunteers to improve the park through Raleigh’s Adopt-A-Park program; they hold clean-up days twice a year. This helps, but the overgrowth is so dense, they still haven’t finished clearing the park.
The goats could take a big bite out of the project. What do goats have that people don’t? A taste for poison ivy and thorny rose bushes for starters. Plus they never complain about sore muscles or sunburn, and they can graze away on a steep slope like it is nothing.
Not to mention that they are entertaining for the humans around them. “They are a constant source of delight,” Tetens said. “They are so affectionate and playful. Their antics are an absolute riot.”
Page has not given up on the Goat Squad. She understands that they are currently not an approved method of removing nuisance vegetation, but because the rules don’t specifically prohibit goats, it seems to her that more investigation should be done before they are ruled out.
She is hoping Tetens can make the case that the goats would not be detrimental to the Neuse River, into which the Cowper Park stream feeds.
Tetens is very sensitive to water quality issues. In previous positions, she was executive director of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association and eastern watershed coordinator for the Watershed Assessment and Restoration Project at the N.C. Division of Water Quality.
“I believe the Neuse buffer rules are essential,” Tetens said. “They are so important for protecting our waterways.”
However, she said, “we’d like to present some proposals that address their concerns.”
It might take a while to get the green light for the Goat Squad. In the meantime, Page and her neighborhood squad will do what it can. Not as effective, not as entertaining, but certainly dedicated to the restoration of the beloved park.