For the past five years an annual Pittsburgh event has celebrated a cutting-edge technology of ecological restoration: goats. Since 2017 an organization called Allegheny GoatScape has utilized goats – “nature’s lawn mowers” – to reduce invasive vegetation and clear away difficult brush in the city’s parks, vacant lots, and other public spaces. This work is honored each summer at Goat Fest, a community event organized by the volunteer group Friends of South Side Park.
This was not only my first Goat Fest but also my first time visiting South Side Park. The park is located just a ways up the hill from me in the neighborhood of Arlington. Arlington is above South Side Flats and at the edge of South Side Slopes.
When I arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday the area was buzzing with activity, with visitors and vendors crowded across Arlington Baseball Field.
I was totally blown away by South Side Park itself. I had no idea that there was such a large and lush park so close to where I live.
Goat Fest was held on the same day as this summer’s final Open Streets event, and the park offered a perspective where I could look out over the East End neighborhoods that I had rode through earlier that morning.
It was also possible to catch glimpses of iconic downtown skyscrapers through the trees.
The goat’s efforts are concentrated in an area of the park called Jurassic Valley. Placards placed along the footpaths provided information on the goat’s work and the park itself.
Of course the stars of the show for most visitors were the goats themselves. A penned area near the park entrance allowed guests to view and pet the animals.
Further into the park visitors could encounter the working goats engaged in their labor of consuming unwanted vegetation.