New Rochelle Gets its Goats

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (May 22, 2024) — The Ward Acres Conservancy in partnership with the City of New Rochelle Department of Parks and Recreation has employed a unique method in its efforts to remove unwanted and invasive plant growth in Ward Acres Park. For approximately 5 days beginning May 20, 2024, a herd of 30 goats will be deployed to eat this vegetation and “recycle” it.

This innovative initiative is funded by Friends of New Rochelle Parks—Westchester Parks Foundation. Goats may be observed up close from many locations in the Park, but from behind a fence. The goats will be located along Broadfield Road across from William B. Ward Elementary School north from the entrance to the dog park. (No petting is allowed). Students from Ward Elementary School visited the goats on Tuesday, May 21.

The goats’ vendor- Fat and Sassy Goats from Rhinebeck, NY, owned and operated by Jenn Balch- is full-service goat grazing services company dedicated to restoring land to a better ecological balance. They will bring the goats to a temporarily fenced area of the park where they will stay for the duration of the service. The fencing is solar powered, child and pet friendly, and is designed to contain the goats and keep them separated from dogs and people, and safe from predators. The vendor will manage all aspects of the goats’ health and well-being.

Goats are the “Swiss army knife” of nature: they eat undesirable vegetation, ferment it into nitrogen-rich manure pellets and aerate the soil with their hooves. This process helps transition land to better long-term health. Many other communities have used goats as a solution to vegetation management. The town of Bedford and Harvey Schools used goats to manage an infestation of invasive vines on their property in August 2022 and October 2023 to great success. Before the goats arrived, massive mounds of porcelain berry had overrun much of the Harvey School property along Route 22. The goats continued to eat away at the highly invasive, woody, climbing vines that outcompete native plants and pollinators and choke the life from trees.

Sara Kaye, City Council Member, New Rochelle said: “I want to thank the Ward Acres Conservancy and Friends of New Rochelle Parks for bringing this project to fruition. This is a great example of the City of New Rochelle embracing eco-friendly solutions that bring so many other benefits. Goats are a preferable, natural alternative to using herbicides which could compromise groundwater health. By removing invasive plants and revitalizing the soil, the flock is providing a tremendous service to our park as well as a fun opportunity for families to visit Ward Acres and see the goats in action.”

Steve Cadenhead, Ward Acres Conservancy President said: “We’re trying all sorts of environmentally friendly approaches to invasive plant management within the Park, and we’re hoping this “biting-edge” experiment will be a resounding success and that we can bring them back to the Park. For me, they’re also a lot more fun to watch than a team of landscapers.”

Vincent Parise, Commissioner of the New Rochelle Department of Parks & Recreation said: “When Ward Acres Conservancy Board brought this idea to us, we immediately recognized it as a fun way to demonstrate an environmentally responsible way to solve a big problem in the park. We see it as a teachable moment for all New Rochelle residents and an opportunity to possibly visit a park you’ve never been to with your friends and family.”

Why Goats?

  • Though goats don’t eat everything, they naturally prefer “pest” plants which threaten our woodlands.
  • Goat digestion naturally ferments the seeds they ingest, making them unviable for regeneration.
  • Goats defoliate the invasive plants, effectively removing their “solar panels” and depriving them of the energy they need to grow.
  • A solar-powered fence keeps them safe from predators.