Got Your Goat?

  • Post category:HOH Book

I went to visit the goats this weekend. You know, the goats, in Riverside Park. Doesn’t every New York City park have goats in it?

Back in 2019, the Riverside Park Conservancy concluded that the best way to deal with invasive plant species was to import these agile ruminants to roam the hills of Forever Wild, chomping along the way. Forever Wild is part of the Parks Department’s citywide effort to protect and preserve the city’s most ecologically valuable lands as natural sites rather than as landscaped areas. It is also home to the park’s bird sanctuary.

In summer, the goats may be found trudging up and down the steep terrain between 119th and 124th Streets. The job is particularly suited to their species, rather than humans, because the slopes are difficult to navigate, and plants such as poison ivy can severely irritate human skin. The goats are part of a 5-year plan to clear the slopes of unwanted growth and replant them with native, ecologically desirable species.

The hoofed helpmates are typically welcome back each year with a “Goatham” festival, featuring live music, goat-themed merchandise, and photo opportunities. The program kicks off with a ceremonial “Running of the Goats,” during which the herd is released into the park, to the delight of hundreds of onlookers. There is even an annual competition to select the favorite goat.  On any given day after the goats’ arrival, crowds of adults, children and dogs alike can be found avidly watching the work in progress. The goats pay them little mind.

And let’s face it, if goats are going to do their thing in any New York City park, it should be Riverside:  In October 1885, one Lawson N. Fuller complained that goats were roaming at will through Riverside Drive, contrary to an ordinance prohibiting that. He reported counting ten between 72nd and 86th Streets on a single day, five of them gnawing on the bark of trees.