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No kidding, county uses goats to clean up vegetation

Courtesy Photo/PWC
The Scapegoats work crew ate the vegetation for about $600 less than the price a human team would have charged to haul it away.
In a pilot program to determine whether goats can effectively bring properties with overgrown yards into compliance, the Prince William County Department of Public Works recently hired a herd of them to do the work of tidying up a cited property in the Triangle area.

Charlotte Del Duca of Scapegoats, LLC recently turned her little herd of goats out on the property so they could eat vines, which were climbing head-high to the top of a chain-link fence, thigh-high grass, ground covering weeds and all manner of vegetation growing in the yard of an abandoned house on Corby Street.

Prince William County Public Works spokeswoman Deb Oliver said Del Duca’s herd was new to the business of clearing lots for the county. “It’s their first government job,” Oliver said of the goats’ starting day on the job on June 18.

Paul Lynch, chief of Neighborhood Services, said a local contractor placed the cost to clear the property at $2,400. Del Duca priced the job at $1,865, so the department hired her and her goats, Lynch said. “It’s less money and it helps us fulfill some of our environmental initiatives. It’s a good way to handle areas that are difficult to mow.”

Barbara Gion, who lives next door to the abandoned property, watched from her screened-in porch as Del Duca put up a temporary fence to keep the goats in check and then turned them loose to eat.

Gion, whose lawn is mown with a garden in the side yard, said she was pleased that the county was cleaning up the brush next door even if the method was a little out of the ordinary.

“It’s fine with me if it gets rid of it. It’s a good thing,” she said.

A week after their start date, the goats were finishing up and Gion said she was happy with the progress.

“They’re doing a good job over there,” she said. “I’m very pleased with it.”

Oliver said the goats drew some attention while they were at the property.

“The neighbors were wonderful. They were all bringing ice water up to Charlotte, making sure the goats had water and offering to refill jugs for the goats. The neighbors seemed to really appreciate what she was trying to do,” she said.

The department learned that using goats was a good way to get rid of brush and weeds, Oliver said.

“It really is a good way to clear overgrown stuff as opposed to bringing in a lot of gas-powered equipment,” she said. “We’ve learned that it’s a very viable option. It takes a little bit longer, but as long as there’s not a pressing deadline, it’s a good option.”

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