by Carol Masters, Becketwood Member
On our way downhill for the last riverfront Tai Chih practice of the season, we spotted a newly fenced area at the base of the bluff. What’s that about? I wondered—landslide protection? I craned my neck to read the signs: Goats at Work, and Munching in Progress.
After practice I wanted to take a picture of the sign and see if the goats had hours—I hadn’t spotted any animals behind the narrow strip of fencing along the road. But when we drove by the fence, I could see that the enclosure also snaked upward, climbing the steep bluff. Stop! Driver Carol Mockovak did (no one yet behind us) and the passengers walked back to investigate.
Halfway up the bluff was a cluster of graceful alpine animals that stopped what they were working on, to turn and stare at us.
After a couple of quick snapshots since they affably posed, we went on with our day and left them to their important work.
This summer and fall, goats have been introduced in St. Paul and Minneapolis park areas. These particular goats manage invasive species along the river and help reduce overgrowth by eating unwanted vegetation like buckthorn and garlic mustard. They are ideal for this task, easily navigating bluff terrain, and are light on the land. They also eat brushy, woody vegetation and plants that are hazardous to other animals, like poison ivy and poison oak. Alas, there is no information on any interest in Creeping Charlie. Their preferred palate is buckthorn, and not so much native species, but they are not always picky eaters so the fences are moved regularly and monitored. More information is available from the St. Paul Park Board and greatriverpassage.org.