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Group of goats used to tame overgrown hill in Baltimore’s Wyman Park Dell

You’ve heard of the farmer in the dell, but this is a new one.

A battalion of 20 goats have been unleashed upon North Baltimore’s Wyman Park Dell to do a job a lawn mower could not: tame the steep, overgrown sides of the bowl overlooked by the Baltimore Museum of Art.

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The hungry horde arrived in the pocket park Thursday afternoon, carted in from a Centreville farm owned and operated by Eco-Goats, a company that specializes in the kind of environmentally friendly — and adorable — vegetation control only goats can provide.

And the furry fiends have their work cut out for them. During the spring, as the coronavirus pandemic tore across the state, the organization that cares for the park wasn’t able to host its monthly volunteer clean-up. Although these events are back on now, Friends of Wyman Park Dell President Cailin McGough said, the patch of land the goats have been charged with munching still could use some extra attention.

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Lucky for the park’s newest employees, the 0.65-acre hillside is ripe with multiflora rose plants and wineberries — two types of vegetation that McGough said are tasty treats for goats.

“We love our people volunteers, but sometimes there are just things that goats are better equipped to do,” she said.

This isn’t the first time goats have been brought on to tackle unruly slices of land in the Baltimore area. Since 2014, goats from Darlington’s Harmony Church Farm have been transported to Towson University’s Glen Arboretum to putter around for a few days, chowing down on invasive species.

People practice yoga with goats at Lil Holler Farm in Westminster June 3. 2017.

Goats are good for vegetation control for a lot of reasons, said Brian Knox, president of Sustainable Resource Management Inc. and supervising forester for Eco-Goats. For one, he said, they can get at places machines and people can’t.

Though the slope at Wyman Park Dell is quite steep, Knox said the goats pranced up and down its incline like it was nothing. Their mouths and digestive systems also obliterate seeds from invasive species, “with almost no viability coming out the back end.”

It doesn’t hurt that they’re able to do the job herbicide-free.

Earlier in the year, McGough said, the Friends of Wyman Park Dell tried applying for a grant to fund a contract with Eco-Goats — and, presumably, cover the goats' paychecks — but the organization wasn’t successful. As summer wound down, though, the group became resolute — it would find a way to pay for the project.

“We really wanted it to happen in 2020, because it felt like something fun that could happen in this horrible year,” McGough said.

The timeline was tight. As McGough explained, the goats stop their work after October, and don’t start back up again until after winter ends.

The volunteers launched a GoFundMe page in September, banking on the hope that Baltimoreans would find the concept of goat-powered vegetation control as fantastic as they did. They were right. In just a month, 80 people had chipped in, bringing the fundraiser’s grand total to $3,540.

The organization’s unorthodox choice of lawn care fits within its overarching mission, McGough explained, to put Wyman Park Dell on the map. It’s a beautiful park with a ton of history, but because of its location — wedged between Charles Village and Remington, and hidden from its surrounding streets — many aren’t aware of its existence, McGough said.

But over the next few days, as goats feast on a pocket of the park’s 16 acres of land, that just may change.

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McGough encouraged Baltimoreans to stop by the park to visit the hard-working goats, keeping a safe distance from each other and from the animals, of course. According to the group’s contract with Eco-Goats, the critters will be stationed in the dell for four to seven days.

It all depends on how hungry they are.

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