Goat grant gained at Bear Creek

       Look out, weeds! Hungry goats will be returning to Bear Creek Park.
       With a $10,000 grant in hand from the Colorado Garden Show Inc., the Bear Creek Garden Association plans to bring in herds of the animals to munch weeds next spring and fall in the 20-acre portion of the park for which it has responsibility, according to association chair Char Nymann.
       “We got a good grant,” she said this week. “It should be enough to bring in the goats next year.”
       Beyond 2007 - not knowing what goat-herders are charging these days -she couldn't say if the grant money would be enough to pay for all or even part of the year following.
       The volunteer group's goal is to have the goats twice a year for two or three years in a row, then monitor the area. “It's not like spraying, where you have to do it every year,” Nymann said. “We can watch it, see how things are, and have them back as needed.”
       Under a 2003 agreement with El Paso County Parks, the association, a registered non-profit, is responsible for weeding about 20 acres that border the 2-acre area of the park off 21st and Rio Grande streets that its members garden. The county gives the volunteer group the same amount of money per acre that it uses for mowing and chemical spraying to keep weeds down elsewhere.
       Because goats cost more, the association, which believes in organic gardening methods, has been unable to afford hiring goat-herders for the past two years.
       “It's a very, very useful form of weed control because there are no toxic herbicides,” Nymann said. “And it's very much healthier thru fertilization. Weeds like unhealthy ground.”
       Colorado Garden Show, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to furthering the horticultural industry, according to its website. The corporation produces the annual Colorado Garden & Home Show in Denver.
       The Bear Creek Garden Association has been managing the garden at Bear Creek Regional Park since 1986. The space contains 104 plots - leased annually to individual area gardeners - surrounded by a fence. The association donates excess produce to local organizations and provides educational programs to the community.
       El Paso County's Board of Commissioners had supported the grant request by a vote and letter to Colorado Garden Show, Inc. Commissioner Chair Sallie Clark said she was pleased to hear about the grant approval. “We'll be able to bring the goats back,” she said.
       The association welcomes donations for future goat costs, Nymann said. For more information, call 473-5827.

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