Goatham

We Put The Goat in Goatham

The goats were baaaaaack for the summer of 2022! With neck-in-neck voting results, Cheech was crowned the G.O.A.T. of this year.

The New York City nickname Gotham – meaning “goat town” in Old English – was popularized by Washington Irving in 1807. Though originally meant as a put-down, New Yorkers embraced the name. “Goat town” was an apt description of the undeveloped Upper West Side where goats used to roam.

Today, it applies once again.

In 2019, Riverside Park Conservancy brought a herd of goats to Gotham, to create Goatham – a hard-to-access area in the northern part of the Park. The goats, who have all retired from former careers, are from a local farm. They have taken up residency for the summer on sloped terrain that is rife with invasive plants. Since goats are naturally effective weed whackers, putting than to work in Goatham is like treating them to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s hearty for the goats and good for the environment.

And on July 14, 2021, the goats came b-a-a-a-a-a-a-ck. The “Fabulous Five” remained for the summer, and the Conservancy offered New Yorkers a chance for a ranked choice vote in its vote-the-GOAT election.

In 2022, the goats came baaaaack again! The four goats — Big G, Cheech, Elenor, and Skittles — participated in “Riverside’s Go(a)t Talent”, a talent show that captivated all the goat fans of New York City.

Why Goats?

As part of our Woodland Restoration Initiative, Riverside Park Conservancy has spent countless hours of volunteer and staff time over the last 15 years to control invasive species in our Bird Sanctuary. Substantial progress has been made from 116th to 119th Streets, and along the West Side Highway north of the 119th Street Tennis Courts.

Unfortunately, it has been difficult to make progress in areas with steep slopes. Some of the species of plants that have proven most difficult to control are Porcelain Berry, English Ivy, Mugwort, Multiflora Rose and Poison Ivy, among several other species. These plants and vines have dominated two acres of the degraded woodland that we are working to improve.

Riverside Park’s goats are like a herd of full-time professional weeding staff. They are able to traverse difficult, hard-to-reach places, and can also gulp down poison ivy without a second thought. This frees up human hands — and significant portions of time — to work on other components of restoration.

Goats and their giant appetites have been widely used by farmers, and recently, by nearby parks to assist in controlling and suppressing the growth of these detrimental invasive plants. Not only to goats eat almost constantly — they can consume 25% of their own body weight in vegetation in just one day — but their fecal matter adds nutrients to the soil as they go. It’s an all around win — a sustainable, chemical-free method of removing invasive species from a landscape.

The Process

We have hosted goats for three summer seasons – first in 2019, in 2021, and again in 2022. They roam a two-acre area — within a fenced enclosure — located between approximately 119th to 125th Streets, feasting all the while.

Throughout the season, the goats continuously consume the weeds all the way down to the roots, which stunts the plants’ normal growth trajectory by making them start all over — only to be eaten again. After a few seasons of eating, the plants’ ability to grow will have been weakened, and perhaps eliminated altogether.

Please contact us for ways to get involved.

BEFORE/AFTER

a graphic showing what goats eat in the Park: Poison ivy, porcelain berry, lesser celandine, multiflora rose, wineberry, bittersweet vine

The Menu

The aggressive greens taking over Goatham can harm local plant species, deplete the soil’s nutrients, disturb nesting sites and affect water flow and retention. So, by munching away month after month, Goatham’s goats should prove to be an effective, economical and pesticide-free way to sustain the Park’s ecosystem.

Goats In The Press

Goatham Archives

Relive the fun of Goatham 2021 and 2019!