(WASHINGTON) — Goats were unleashed at the Historic Congressional Cemetery on Wednesday.
Taking a page from Los Angeles’ playbook, the cemetery has hired goats to eat up one and a half acres of overgrowth at the edge of its lot — a stretch of land behind a chain-link fence that borders the Anacostia River, where trees have been weighed down by invasive ivy and weeds.
Cemetery organizers worry that the trees will fall and damage headstones. As a remedy, they’re paying $4,000 to Eco-Goats, a Davidsonville, Md., farm that rents out its goats for ecologically sustainable grazing — n other words, relatively cheap labor for anyone badly in need of weeding.
If all goes to plan, 60-70 goats will have ravaged the cemetery foliage by next Tuesday. They’ll stay 24 hours a day, chomping on vegetation for the next six days straight.
Brian Knox, who runs Eco-Goats, released 25 of them into the cemetery forest at 10 a.m. A few spectators were on hand; small children peered through the chain-link fence and giggled. The goats rushed back into their trailer, spooked by TV cameras and still photographers, and had to be coaxed back out.
“Every goat’s got its own personality, and of the hundred we’ve got on our farm, there’s only about 10 I won’t work with,” Knox said.
The goats will strip the area of overgrowth up to 7 feet off the ground, eating just about everything but the trees, Knox told ABC News.
Founded in 1807 and located 10 blocks east of Eastern Market, the cemetery is not officially connected to Congress. It’s owned by Christ Church and preserved by the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of the Historic Congressional Cemetery, which takes private donations for the upkeep.
The goats are cheaper than manual labor to clear the area, and they’re cheaper than pesticides to kill invasive weeds, said Paul Williams, president of the nonprofit.
“Rather than use herbicides and pesticides and spray this whole area,” Williams said, “we really wanted to come up with something that was more eco-friendly.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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