PROVINCETOWN — A vegetation management project in Provincetown resulted in a community goat herding effort last Friday night, June 11.
The town’s community garden sits on a two-acre-plus plot, just off Brown Street, in the West End. Adjacent to the garden is a large and considerably overgrown field. But Dennis Minsky, chair of the Provincetown Open Space Committee, doesn’t see a weedy field full of chest-high poison ivy. He envisions a wildflower meadow with a winding pathway that passes through freshly planted trees and bushes, leading up to the shore of Shank Painter Pond, where picnic tables and benches will await residents and visitors alike.
“It could be a nice place for people to be in nature,” said Minsky, who believes that, if the committee builds it, the people will come.
But there’s a barrier between Minsky and his field of dreams. The plot’s abundant poison ivy will be very difficult to remove, especially without herbicides. Minsky said the committee doesn’t want — and, besides, isn’t allowed — to use any sort of chemical means to suppress the poison ivy. “It’s a real challenge,” he said.
Cue the goats.
The four-legged weedeaters, known for their gluttonous appetites, are increasingly called on to serve as landscapers because of their gastrointestinal tracts’ ability to completely break down the seeds of invasive plants. While invasives eaten by other animals, like horses, can consistently reproduce post-digestion, the regrowth of plants through goats is minimal to zero.
A couple of years ago, Minsky hatched a plan to have goats clean up the land off Brown Street, and he successfully pitched the idea to the open space committee. Goat Green Cape Cod, owned by Stacy Greaves, was booked to provide the animals for the cleanup.
Greaves started her business in 2015, a year after she rescued four goats from rural Western Mass. Today, she has 22 goats at her farm in Barnstable. “I love the environment,” she said, “and I wanted to do something to help. It’s a totally green alternative for managing invasive species.”
The goats arrived in Provincetown on Wednesday, June 9. Hired for the job was one of the most dynamic and stylish sextets since the Allman Brothers: Jack, Jasper, Joey, Midnight, Moon, and Magic strutted off the van, goatees held high. The group did not mess around. “They got right in the area and just started munching, munching, munching,” said Minsky.
But the cleanup experiment came to an abrupt halt on Friday night after the goats, led by Jasper, escaped from their enclosure. Both Greaves and Minsky attribute the escape to a fence malfunction. Tim Famulare, Provincetown’s environmental planner, and several volunteers who happened to be in the area helped round up the goats and put them on leashes.
Greaves was impressed with the community’s response. “If people had called them or chased them, they would have run, because they’re prey animals,” she said. “There was no panic in the situation, because everybody was wonderful and calm. Calm people, calm animals.”
After rounding up the goats, Greaves opted to return them to Barnstable. Whether or not they will be back for a second course at the land off Brown Street remains to be seen.
Greaves “absolutely” believes her goats can successfully clean up the area with a more consolidated fence plan, while Minsky says he needs to regroup with the open space committee.
“It’s in limbo for the time being,” he said.