RFTA investigating goats for weed control
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority wants to know if it’s possible to use goats to control weeds along the Rio Grande Trail corridor it owns in the lower Roaring Fork Valley.
The agency, which operates public buses in Aspen and throughout the valley, is currently in the process of officially requesting information about whether the proposal is feasible and affordable, said Angela Henderson, RFTA assistant director for project management and facilities operations.
“Bikers, pedestrians, families — all of them have been concerned when they see us even spot spraying (herbicides) for weeds,” Henderson said. “People are saying they want us to find other ways to control them.”
RFTA owns more than 33 miles of the old Aspen branch of the Denver and Western Railroad corridor, from 23rd Street in Glenwood Springs to Emma, Henderson said. Of that, RFTA manages about 20 miles of it, she said.
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The corridor includes the Rio Grande Trail, which stretches from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.
“There may definitely be some challenges with goats in the corridor,” RFTA’s request for information states, adding that the trail must stay open during the project.
For example, there are about 40 trail crossings in the lower 20-plus miles that range from busy intersections to private driveways as well as cyclists traveling at high speed and “quite a few dog walkers,” the request states.
Henderson said she got the idea while on a recent visit to Sun Valley, Idaho, where she saw goats penned up beside trails and wondered if it was possibly a petting zoo. And while it worked well there, the Rio Grande Trail corridor is much busier and the goat idea might not work, she said.
“The last thing I need are goats running up on Highway 82,” Henderson said.
Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s public works director, said the county tried using goats to control weeds about 15 years ago but found it didn’t work.
“They (ate the noxious weeds) and they ate everything else, too,” Pettet said. “We just didn’t have good success with it.
“There are much more effective means to control weeds than trying to manage a herd of goats next to a bike path.”
The best way to control weeds in Pitkin County is through herbicides that target specific weeds and mechanical methods like pulling them by hand, he said.
Jim Lewis, chairman of the Pitkin County Weed Advisory Board, said a RFTA employee informed the board of the goat plan last week. And while he said he’s interested to see if the plan will be successful, he’s somewhat skeptical.
“I’m not sure it’s going to work,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”
The main questions are whether goats would eat some of the weeds RFTA wants to control and whether the weed densities are large enough to bring in goats, Lewis said.
Still, the weed board was interested in the plan and wants to be keep abreast of how it works, he said.
Henderson said she hopes to get the goat program up and running this summer.
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