Goats coming back to Bear Creek

       The goats are coming back to Bear Creek Park.
       Although fundraising is still needed to cover the last of the $5,000 cost, the Bear Creek Garden Association has contracted with Lani Malmberg of Landers, Wyo., and her 500-head herd of four-legged weed-eaters starting Friday morning, Sept. 18.
       The plan is for the goats to nibble down the noxious weeds and simultaneously fertilize the soil in a 20-acre area buffering the association's 2-acre community garden near the El Paso County Parks building southeast of 21st and Rio Grande streets.
       “It's going to be really nice,” said Char Nymann, president of the non-profit group of volunteer gardeners. The herd will stay seven to eight days, or however long it takes to cover the entire acreage, she said.
       People are invited to view the goats in action. The garden can be accessed by taking Creek Crossing (the first turn off Rio Grande east of 21st) and following it past the County Parks building. There is no charge.
       Through an agreement with the county, the association independently weeds the buffer area to prevent herbicidal sprays - which the county uses to stop weeds elsewhere in Bear Creek Park - from getting into the garden itself.
       Ideally, the association would like to bring in the goats every year, but can't afford it. Even this time, the association is about $200 short of the needed amount for Malmberg, but hopes to obtain it through additional donations in the coming days, Nymann said. Donations are also welcomed for future goat visits. The group receives no government aid.
       The last time the goats came was fall 2007. The rest of the time, the association's gardeners hand-weed the buffer acreage themselves, but their belief is that regular use of goats has a greater long-term weeding benefit. For example, Nymann said, “south of the garden fence, there used to be mostly Canada thistle [a state-identified noxious weed]. Now you might find one here and there, but otherwise it's just native grass.”
       The state requires the reduction of noxious weeds on public lands.

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