Friday, August 10, 2012

N.J. town considers goats to eat poison ivy

Seaside Park takes creative look at invasive plant issue

Asbury Park Press

        9:22 AM, Aug 10, 2012   |  
Goats may come to Seaside Park to rid the town of its poison ivy. / Photo courtesy of Dawn Yurkiewicz

SEASIDE PARK, N.J. — A goat’s appetite might be the answer to the borough’s poison ivy problem.
State restrictions bar Seaside Park from using chemicals or burning the long-overlooked mess of poison ivy on its bayshore, so the Borough Council is considering a contract with a Maryland farm to remove the ivy with goats instead.
“We’re looking at alternatives, but seeing as we’re talking right next to the bay, we can’t use chemicals and we can’t burn, so really we don’t know what alternatives there are,” Councilman Michael Tierney said.
Historically, the borough would just burn the poison ivy, but that is no longer allowed in the state and they are wary of using chemicals on the Barnegat Bay’s shoreline, Tierney said.
Tierney calculated the potential maximum cost of using goats falls between $15,000 and $20,000 if the work lasts 21 days, the maximum length of the planned contract.
Part of the cost is to house two handlers who come from Maryland and keep watch over the herd of 15 to 18 goats while they eat. There also is a $350 per day cost for the goats, Tierney said.
Officials want to conduct a test run before setting a contract for the whole job to determine what the borough is responsible for, how it will work and whether it’s economically feasible, said Borough Administrator Bob Martucci.
Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency’s only concern is for rare plants along the bay that the goats might eat in addition to or instead of poison ivy. Martucci said the borough had the same concern and plans to address it.
Goats don’t eat everything, but like to dine on invasive plants such as poison ivy without being affected like humans, said Dawn Yurkiewicz, who runs the Whiteford, Md., business that could lease the goats to Seaside Park.
They are more efficient, more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly than a landscaping company and make less noise, she said.
“Goats are kind of nature’s weed eaters,” Yurkiewicz said. “It’s what they like to eat.”
If a contract is set, the goats would travel 144 miles in a trailer to get to Seaside Park from Stratford Farm in Whiteford, Md., a small Harford County town seated just south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The goats would stay in the trailer at night and eat within a mesh electrified fence the handlers set up during the day, Yurkiewicz said.
After surveying Seaside Park’s problem, Yurkiewicz said she might take the entire herd up to three weeks to remove all the poison ivy. Each goat can eat 5 to 8 pounds of weeds per day, she said.
The target area covers several blocks south of I Street on the grassy sections between Bay View Avenue and the bay, Tierney said.
“I think it’s stopping people from going to the bay side,” he said of the ivy. “We want people to walk along the bay without worrying about the three leaves.”

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