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No 'kidding,' Lenexa uses goats to curb invasive plant species

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Posted at 2:01 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 23:09:36-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No "kidding," the City of Lenexa is employing goats to solve its vegetation problems.

The city contracted Goats on the Go to get invasive plant species under control at Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park.

Jason Stuedemann, stormwater specialist with the city, said the goats are effective at eradicating unwanted plants from tricky areas — and they enjoy it, too.

"They just race off and take off eating, like at a buffet," Stuedemann said.

In this instance, Lenexa is using the grazing herd to curb the species' growth through a 2 1/2 acre stream corridor.

Invasive species are harmful, especially along streams, because their shallow roots can contribute to erosion.

Native plants have deeper roots and help stabilize stream beds.

The goats generally leave the most beneficial, native plants alone. Meanwhile, they nimbly navigate stream beds and steep, rocky terrain to feast on the tastier, but less desirable (to humans, anyway) plants.

So, how did the goats get to Sar-Ko-Par?

"I jokingly refer to myself as the chauffeur to the goats, and I just bring them to different buffets all the time," herd owner Margaret Chamas said.

Chamas brought the herd of 42 goats to the park for about a three-week stay.

Throughout that time, she and an employee will progressively move the goats' fence boundaries to new areas of the park.

Chamas said they move the herd every three to five days, so they don't get hungry or bored and think about hopping the fence.

Once in a new section, the goats take time to explore the fare before chowing down.

"They spend an hour or two just kind of walking the circuit, seeing what's on the buffet menu and then they'll settle down, they'll find their favorite thing and start there. They'll start with the dessert and work their way back toward the broccoli and brussel sprouts," Chamas said.

They've already made a big difference at the Lenexa park. Chamas said the goats have trimmed about two feet of vegetation down to ground level so far.

The main invasive plant species found at Sar-Ko-Par park include bush honeysuckle, Callery pear, and wild grapes (which can vine up a tree, eventually killing it).

The goats will also eat "nuisance" species that humans don't like to deal with but aren't necessarily harmful to the environment, including poison ivy, sticker bushes and more.

Targeted goat grazing is an alternative to other modes of plant removal such as mowing, cutting, burning and use of chemicals.

The goats at the park are working animals, but the public will have a chance to interact with some of them in September, Stuedemann said.

Chamas is bringing bottle babies to the Lenexa Spinach Festival on Sept. 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also takes place at the park.