Goats going to Irwin to eat overgrowth

September 16, 2018
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A herd of hungry goats will help the owners of the historic John Irwin house clear a half-acre corner of the downtown property of overgrown weeds, vines and bushes.

“It’s an environmentally friendly way of getting something cleared. We’ve been looking for goats for a couple of years,” said Sandy Jenkins, the sixth-generation owner through her father’s family.

She and her husband, William, want to clear heavy, jungle-like overgrowth on part of the property sloping toward a tributary stream to Brush Creek. Irwin council has approved the use of 11 goats and a donkey on the property at the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Jenkinses arranged with Allegheny GoatScape, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, to have its herd chew on the problem. The donkey will protect the goats from predators -- both four-legged animals and humans, Sandy Jenkins said.

What the Jenkinses don’t know is whether the goats and donkey from Allegheny GoatScape will make it to Irwin this year or next.

“They are really booked this year. They’re in high demand,” William Jenkins said..

Gavin Deming, founder and executive director of Allegheny GoatScape, could not be reached for comment.

Allegheny GoatScape estimated it will take a week to 11 days to clear the vegetation at a cost between $1,270 and $1,700. The nonprofit charges $10 per day per animal.

Deming’s goats cleared invasive plants last year between the Great Allegheny Passage trail and the Monongahela River in Homestead. The goats chewed up part of South Park. While at Brighton Heights on Pittsburgh’s North Side, the goats escaped their enclosure when a deer ran through the fenced-in area and knocked down part of the fence, allowing the goats freedom until they were rounded up.

Allegheny GoatScape says on its website that the goats can traverse terrain that is difficult or impossible for people and machinery. They work long hours, and the only fuel they require is the plants they eat. Once the goats are through eating the weeds and invasive plants, the land is more manageable for restoration because the soil is nutrient-rich.

When the ground is cleared, Sandy Jenkins said they will consider using that land for a community garden that will allow downtown residents to plant flowers or vegetables, or possibly a dog park.

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