Some of the first four-legged creatures to wander the Danvers Dog Park aren’t canines at all.
The Department of Public Works brought in 20 goats this week to clear poison ivy, bittersweet and other undesirable weeds out of the one-acre, fenced-in dog park so herbicides would not be needed.
The goats were seen as an eco-friendly way to clear some of the nasty weeds from the woods of the dog park, which is nearing completion in an overflow parking area of Endicott Park on Forest Street. The Department of Public Works posted pictures of the goats on Twitter on Tuesday with the caption: “Look who’s working hard to get the dog park ready! Are you kid-ing me?!”
And the goats made fast work of it, munching away and getting rid of the poison ivy in just 24 hours, from Tuesday to Wednesday. Bittersweet vines can also climb trees and kill them.
“With the wetlands, you can’t be spraying in the first place,” said Chuck Farrell, the DPW’s Forestry Division manager. Goats, it turns out, love poison ivy.
“They will eat everything that’s in there,” Farrell said. The town also had to be sensitive about spraying herbicides, knowing that people would be taking their dogs into the park soon.
“You can’t put a chemical when you have dogs and all that,” said Dikran Yakubian, president of Dayco Construction of Salem, as his crew put the finishing touches on the park and its parking area.
Farrell said he had heard of the technique, and then while driving through Georgetown, he saw a sign for a service called Goats to Go at Great Rock Farm. The company’s website says there is a setup charge of $200 and a cost of $150 per day.
It’s a service that the town could use several times a year to keep the poison ivy at bay, Farrell said. It’s also possible the town could get a few goats and house them at the Children’s Barn at Endicott Park.
Farrell said the goats have gotten some attention.
“Quite a few people have stopped by,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, one of those goat sightseers was Mikki Hjorth, who was walking with her brother’s service dog, a black Labrador retriever named Addie. She said she was excited for the dog park, with its paths that wind through the woods in between rock walls.
“I think it’s great,” Hjorth said. Because the town has a leash law, the park will give dogs a place to run and their owners a way to make new friends.
The dog park, which has been in the works for a number of years, broke ground in March.
While construction was delayed this summer, work on the approximately $237,000 dog park is nearing completion, Farrell said.
The park was built thanks to local private fundraising by Friends of Danvers Dog Park, and a large grant from the Stanton Foundation, which contributed a majority of the funding.
Farrell said work to be done includes adding a sidewalk on Forest Street and installing gates and dog waste stations.
Friends of Danvers Dog Park President Carla King said it is too soon to say when exactly the park will open, but it should be soon. The group is planning a grand opening in mid-September.
King will not have a dog to run in the park, however, as she had to put down her 141/2 year old Chihuahua named Scooby about three weeks ago due to a heart condition.
King said she got permission from the town to let her dog run in the dog park before she took Scooby to the veterinarian.
Joan Sherman and her grandson, Aaron Baldwin, 5, came by the dog park to see the goats on Wednesday morning.
“I say they are cute,” Aaron said of the goats. “The baby ones are cute.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.