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Downtown Gets Its Goats

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, September 08, 2008, at 01:15PM
Goats at Angels Knoll Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A goat nibbles on a palm tree on the Angels Knoll hillside Monday morning.

Commuters coming out of the 4th and Hill subway station got a bit of a start this morning, as their escalator ride brought them face-to-face with the sight of a hillside of goats.

The herd of 100 goats are part of a CRA program to clear the steep hillside between Upper and Lower Angels Knoll parks. The goats, from Ranchito Tivo Boer Goat in Chino, are slated to be on the site for two weeks. Those on hand for the project's kickoff this morning doubted it would take the hungry animals that long to clear the hillside.

On hand to view the goats this morning, Community Redevelopment Agency CEO Cecilia V. Estolano credited Project Manager Len Betz with the inspiration for using goats to clear the hillside. Betz got the idea from his father, who runs a wheat farm in Oklahoma. After talking to his dad about the use of goats on the farm, Betz heard an NPR piece on the use of goats for brush clearance. "Instead of doing our traditional mow, blow and go, we got on the Internet and searched for goatherder services," Betz recalls. In doing so they found George Gonzalez and Ranchito Tivo.

The use of goats instead of a crew with weedwhackers will save the agency several thousand dollars, and help to further its green objectives by reducing emissions and noise the work would have generated.

That the program would create such a curious sight for commuters coming off the subway at 4th and Main was a fun side effect. "Just look at people coming off the subway and looking at this and taking pictures on their cell phones," Estolano remarked while looking down from Upper Angels Knoll. "It's fabulous."

Estolano and Betz were on hand this morning at 9:30am to watch the herdsmen from Ranchito Tivo guide the animals from their pen in Upper Angels Knoll Park to the hillside. Fencing was installed along the adjacent stairway to keep the goats from making their way down to Grand Central Market.

The animals will eat eight to ten hours a day, and will spend their nights in the upper park pen. Their voracious appetite was evident even before they were released onto the hillside, with two trees inside the pen area having been stripped of bark.

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