Goats gobble up Montpelier's poison ivy problem

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Faced with an outbreak of poison ivy in a sensitive area, the city of Montpelier turned to an interesting solution-- goats.

The bike path behind Montpelier High School has been overrun with poison ivy.

"The poison ivy branches have been hanging out over the bike path, so people running by will get whacked," said Lani Chesmore of Montpelier.

Chesmore found goats there Wednesday morning, chewing away.

"At first I was like, 'What the heck is going on?' And then I thought, only in Vermont," Chesmore said.

The three, 6-month-old female goats were hired by the town. They're named Ruth, Bader and Ginsburg.

"Yes, the Supreme Court goatuses," herder Mary Beth Herbert said.

Herbert used to tackle invasive species with chemicals and power tools. She likes her goats better.

"I didn't start this out for a business, per se, I did it because I was doing invasive species removal with power equipment and gas and herbicide. I had an opportunity to kind of switch it," she explained.

City officials says poison ivy appears every year and organic treatments haven't worked well.

"This year's been especially aggressive with the poison ivy and we've had a lot of complaints," said Sue Allen, Montpelier's assistant city manager.

So the city came up with a new plan-- one that's safe for the Winooski River and people on the bike path.

"We don't want to use chemicals. We're right by the river. We have dogs and kids running through here," Allen said.

The goats will be along the path for the next two weeks. They'll return in the fall to continue their work.

It may be a novelty for most Vermonters, but it's common elsewhere.

"In other parts of the world and even other parts of the country, it's quite popular," said Kimberly Hagen of the UVM Extension. "I've had several queries from towns around the state and private landowners, as well."

"We've kind of reached back in time to find a solution to our modern problem," Allen said, "which I think is really fun."