On an early Wednesday morning near the parking lot for the Kipling section of the Clear Creek Trail, bleating goats are being loaded into the back of a pickup while a steady stream of cars rolls past …
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On an early Wednesday morning near the parking lot for the Kipling section of the Clear Creek Trail, bleating goats are being loaded into the back of a pickup while a steady stream of cars rolls past the nearby liquor store.
This somewhat unexpected scene is courtesy of a partnership between the city of Wheat Ridge and a college-teaching, city councilwoman that uses goats as a sustainable way of clearing plots of land, largely due to their unique ability to digest plant material, including seeds, preventing new growth of the sometimes noxious weeds they consume. The goats who’ve spent the past month grazing a plot of land near the trail are on the way to their next assignment.
Amanda Weaver and her helper Shawnna Black have their hands full. One of the goats has decided he’s not in the mood to take a ride in the truck. But 10 years of dealing with the eccentricities of these lovable animals gives Weaver the upper hand.
Weaver, owner of 5 Fridges Farm, a short distance from the trail, said what started out as a joke between herself and the former head of forestry in Wheat Ridge — to use the goats to clear a difficult piece of land, just outside the fence surrounding her dairy farm, turned into the popular city program. What surprised her most, was the attachment neighbors formed with the goats.
“When I moved them back inside the fence, all of these people from the community knew the goats’ names because I had name tags on them and they said “Where did Willie go? Where did Arlo go?” So we realized, we’ve got an opportunity here, not only do some great work in the parks, but also the community loves it, and it’s a great teaching tool for all of these important environmental science things.”
She knows a lot about those important science issues. Aside from urban farming and sitting on the Wheat Ridge city council for the last year-and-a-half, Weaver teaches sustainable agriculture at CU Denver.
“This program is a perfect opportunity because people love goats. It really didn’t have anything to do with my council position but now people know me as council member and the crazy goat lady,” Weaver said.
Before COVID-19 hit, moving the goats was an old-school affair, often consisting of a round-up and goat parade down city streets, between grazing locations. But for now, the pickup truck works just fine. The goats are greeted warmly when they reach their destination. Nestled between Wilmore-Davis Elementary School and residential homes, Happiness Gardens is a community gardening project that’s participating in the goat program for the first time, allowing them to clear the plot this off-season.
Rachel Hultin, a city council member from District 2 is there to meet the goats, proudly wearing her ‘nerd herd’ T-shirt. She’s clearly a big fan of the program.
“People from the neighborhood walk through this space all of the time,” she said. “Now they’re going to be exposed to the goats, and at the end of the day it just tells a rich story about who we are as a city. Wheat Ridge cares a lot about its land and its connection to the land, and there’s nothing like having goats in your community garden to really make it relatable and alive.”
The goats will be at this location for about the next month before moving on to their next assignment.
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