SOUTH PORTLAND — A herd of goats was delivered to the Pleasantdale neighborhood Wednesday morning, on an eco-friendly mission to help make a little-used waterfront park more inviting to the public.

The city has hired Scapegoats of Kennebunk to clear Yerxa Park of unwanted vegetation, including Japanese knotweed, a hard-to-kill invasive plant. The small park is off Broadway, at the end of Bagley Avenue, between the city’s greenbelt path and the Fore River.

Eight goats, including two named Succotash and Banjo, will be on the job for a week. Contained within temporary, electrified fencing, they will eat and trample the troublesome plants, making way for future park improvements.

“The idea is for them to eat down the knotweed in this park so that the park can be used as an actual park space and not just an overgrown area,” said Heather Lombard, who started Scapegoats two years ago.

A goat from Scapegoats munches on knotweed at Yerxa Park in Sough Portland on Wednesday morning. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Known as “Goat Herder in Chief,” Lombard said the public is welcome to stop by and see the goats at work, but she warned against touching the fence or feeding the animals.

The goat project costs $600 per week and is funded by a community development block grant, said Karl Coughlin, deputy parks director. It follows the city’s pesticide use ordinance, which calls for invasive plant management practices that don’t rely on synthetic pesticides or herbicides.

“Goats are basically a natural way to combat this type of invasive vegetation without the use of pesticides or gas guzzling machinery,” Lombard said. “And they’re a lot of fun.”

The goats will be brought back for a second week next spring to clear the park of tender shoots. Then, city workers will cover the affected areas with used carpet or heavy landscaping cloth for two to three years to snuff out the tenacious knotweed, said Fred Dillon, stormwater program coordinator.

When the park is finally cleared of unwanted vegetation, the city will install native plants, a trail, signs and additional benches based on a conceptual plan designed by Addie Halligan, an intern in the city’s Water Resource Protection Department who recently received a master’s degree in landscape design.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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