Goats find new Westside munching locations

       In past years, when the Wyoming goat herd came to this area, it was just to eat the weeds around the Bear Creek Garden and then go home.
       This year other customers have surfaced, and the Palmer Land Trust hopes to sign on next year as well.

Some of Lani Malmberg's goat herd feast on about a half-acre of the Palmer Land Trust's 24-acre Mesa Wildlife Preserve Nov. 17 while waiting to be deployed to the 20-plus undeveloped private lots nearby. In the background can be seen houses at the north end of Oswego Street, where the entrance to the Preserve is.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Shortly before the goats' two-week Bear Creek job (which ended Nov. 16), herd owner Lani Malmberg was contacted by owners of some undeveloped lots off Mesa Road beside the Land Trust's 24-acre Wildlife Preserve who have been concerned their tall grass was a fire hazard. With coordination from one of the owners, Richard Serby, about half of Malmberg's 800-head herd began chowing down there Nov. 17.
       Serby, who said he's been “ringing doorbells” with the hope of signing on property owners to spread out the cost, had a list of more than 20 by mid-week and was still looking for more.
       Asked how long the goats might need to work that area, Malmberg's son, Donny Benz, could only hedge, “It depends on how many properties there are.”
       He said about 400 of the 800 goats that he and his mother trucked down will be assigned to the lots near the Mesa Preserve.
       The neighbors' concern is based on sad experience. “Twelve years ago, there was pretty a serious fire in the valley [the preserve],” Serby said. “We lost one house completely on the west side, and a number of others were severely damaged. Those of us who've lived here a while know what can happen in a short period of time.”
       The Garden Association's reason for bringing in the goats every year (when it can fundraise enough money to do so) is to eat up noxious weeds and improve the soil health in a buffer area around its garden off 21st and Rio Grande streets. Serby said it would be a “bonus” if such effects could also occur for his lot and others in that area.
       Access to the properties was made available through the preserve's southwest entrance at the north end of Oswego Street, said Nathan Moyer of the Palmer Land Trust.
       The nonprofit could not afford to have the goats work on the preserve itself this time around, but “we've talked to Lani about maybe next year, that they can come to our property as well,” he said.
       As an informal sort of trade-off, the initial holding area for the goats was about a half-acre of Palmer Trust Land, so at least that much of the property got some goat attention this year
       Purchased by a group of residents off Mesa Road and Friendship Lane about 30 years ago, the preserve was one of the earliest properties saved as open space by the Palmer Land Trust (then called the Palmer Foundation), and is open to the public.
       This year, as in the past. the Bear Creek Garden Association singlehandedly fundraised the $6,000 cost to bring in the goats. In recent years, the association has managed to raise enough money that way to afford Mamberg's herd in the spring and fall of 2007 as well as last fall.
       The thinking is that if multiple groups and/or individuals share the expense, the goats' services overall would be more affordable. Benz confirmed that the largest share of the costs involves getting the goats down to this area.

Westside Pioneer article