Goats start feasting on Bear Creek weeds
But slim chance of county being able to fund them again

       A ceremony and scores of well-wishers greeted the arrival of a herd of goats at Bear Creek Regional Park July 1.
       The herd from Landers, Wyo., reportedly 500-strong, is scheduled to feed for up to 10 days on the noxious weeds in a roughly 20-acre area around the Bear Creek Garden Association's 2-acre organic plot, near the El Paso County Parks administrative offices southeast of 21st and Rio Grande streets.
       One of the speakers, County Commissioner Sallie Clark, praised the goats' natural effectiveness and expressed pride that the county had supported the association's successful $10,000 private grant request (which enabled it to bring back the goats after a three-year absence).
       However, because the animals' cost is considerably higher than killing weeds with chemical sprays - as County Parks does elsewhere - Clark said afterward that it's not likely the county could afford to pay for the goats again, as it had for several years prior to 2004. I'm not sure that taxpayers would think it was a viable way to use tax dollars when we can't even overlay someone's road, she said.
       Adding to the crunch, as part of a county-wide budget cutback, the dollar amount for weed control will be slashed by $14,000 in 2008, noted Mark Johnston, head of County Environmental Services.
       The highest per-acre rate that the county pays for weed-killing is $69, according to Johnston. He said the agency gives a matching amount to the association, which uses it to buy grass seed (to compete with the weeds in its two-acre area).
       Past cost comparisons have put the goat expense at more than twice that of sprays. The $10,000 this year is expected to cover the costs of bringing in the goat herd two times, according to Char Nymann, president of the association.
       The group is continuing its fundraising efforts in hopes of being able to bring the goats back twice again next year.
       Asked about the health safety of spraying for weeds, Johnston said that the stuff used by the county meets Environmental Protection Agency standards. The content is similar to the kind of weed spray people might buy at a gardening store, he said.
       State law requires the reduction of noxious weeds on public lands.

Westside Pioneer article