Goatscaping: Clearing Invasive Species Never Looked So Cute

By November 15, 2019 November 20th, 2019 Blog

Invasive kudzu engulfs the left side of this picture while the goat cleared area on the right shows the improvement made.

By Kristina Arreza
Chesapeake Bay Trust Communications Intern

Maintaining and enhancing its community areas is one of the primary responsibilities of the Edgewater Beach Citizens Association for the Edgewater Beach Shaded section community. The community is a small neighborhood of 53 homes. In the communal area of several acres a park, picnic area, and an active pier with boat slips are the backdrop for 36 goats from Browsing Green Goats. Why you may ask? In the little nook located on South River from Park Avenue to Edgewater Beach Drive lies tangles of invasive Kudzu vines engulfing and suffocating the existing native trees and plants. Kudzu has destroyed natural riparian vegetation along the banks of Beards Creek and South Park River, causing instability and erosion of sediment which fills the South River. Known as an overpowering vine, Kudzu can suffocate trees at the crown when engulfed which, result in rotting roots.

Mary Bowen, invasive species control specialist and founder of Browsing Green Goats, has mastered the innovative technique of tackling weeds in a sustainable matter. “Goats can graze in hard to reach places that machines usually miss; such as slopes, wetlands, and rough terrain areas.” Goats also eat poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and knotweed to name a few. Additional benefits of goat browsing include the natural fertilizer source of their excrement and their ability to till the soil with their hooves which break down clumps and large mounds of soil for a better surface to plant new trees. They have made significant progress. According to John Greene, project leader for the Edgewater Beach Citizens Association (EBCA), “the goats cleared almost an acre in the first 24 hours!”

This project was funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s (Trust) through the Community Engagement Mini-Grant Program. This grant program is designed to connect residents throughout Maryland in activities that enhance communities, engage residents, and improve natural resources. A few of these activities include tree plantings, rain gardens, stream cleanups, storm drain stenciling, and yep, removal of invasive species. The Trust seeks to reach groups that have traditionally been under-served in tackling environmental issues and new applicants and organizations from a diverse array of communities.

Before the Trust’s approval of the Edgewater Beach Shady Side Community project, Mr. Greene said that the plants were “too powerful for the toxic and environmentally unfriendly herbicides or from removing the vines by hand.” Completion of the invasive removal was slated for Summer 2020, however, the goats have made a significant impact in their short period spent in the area. After this phase of the project, maintenance will include identifying crowns (root systems) and treating those crowns with approved chemicals for removal. Further maintenance of the entire park area is conducted by residents throughout the year. The EBCA was able to accumulate $2,500 towards this project alongside an additional $2,500 in donations to complete the eradication of kudzu.

The Arundel Rivers Federation (ARF) aided in raising awareness and publicity for the rest of the Edgewater Beach Shaded community to be educated and involved in this portion of the project. In the second phase, ARF intends on hosting a kayak trip with area neighbors and the South Riverkeeper – to inform them about native riparian plants and their importance to the river. Additional opportunities for outreach include anticipated services from Annapolis area high schools – including the Annapolis High Key Club. The project intends to educate students about the issue of invasive plants and river health.

Recently, the community and their project was featured in the Edgewater Patch. Read the full story here.

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