“It's Not a Normal Practice”: Denton Parks & Rec Using Goats to Help Landscape, Preserve Trees

Those who frequent Denton's Lake Forest Park might tell you it's the greatest of all time -- or G.O.A.T.

And now, it's actually home to goats that are working hard for the city's parks and recreation department as part of a unique pilot program.

"It's not what you call a normal practice," said Drew Huffman, Parks Superintendent for Denton Parks & Rec. "There's not many other cities here in North Texas that have started using this yet."

So what brings them there?

Lake Forest Park is home to many big, beautiful oak trees the city wants to preserve. It's also home to a lot of weeds and invasive plants that are threatening the trees' long-term survival.

The city looked at several different ways they could clear out the harmful plants including machines, chemical sprays, and controlled burns -- but all of those options came with risks.

"We wanted to be more environmentally sensitive and sustainable," said Huffman. "And then we came across goats."

They learned the very plants they wanted to get rid of are the equivalent of a nice steak dinner for goats.

So they found a goat farmer out of Greenville who was willing to loan them a dozen of the animals -- as well as two donkeys to protect them -- and now, they're all bonafide city landscapers.

"They are pretty good landscapers," laughed Huffman.

The goats are working inside an enclosed half-acre at the park, feeding on the plants several times each day.

Huffman says they've made a noticeable difference, noting how thinned out one area they've grazed looks compared to a thick area they haven't yet touched.

"You can definitely see it," said Huffman.

The pilot program will last one month. Once it's complete, Huffman and his team will report back to city leaders to let them know how well it worked and how cost effective it would be to continue running the program in the future. 

No matter what they decide, Huffman believes the pilot was worth it.        

"Not only does it show us and our community, but it also shows the rest of North Texas how well goats can be used for vegetation control in the right environment," said Huffman.

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