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Go Goats! Covington’s Goebel Park to Welcome Goats this Spring

Over the course of the last several months, Goebel Park has been transformed into a colorful and welcoming gathering spot for people of all ages to enjoy. In the coming weeks, this popular public space will be shared with a new set of first-time visitors: goats.

Funded through a $5,000 Creative Community Grant from the Center for Great Neighborhoods, the project calls for the use of seven to 13 female goats to help clear invasive plants that have overgrown in the lower portion of the park and gradually reclaim and improve the woods. Organizers also believe the goats can be used to engage and educate the community about the benefits of animal husbandry, farming and good land management practices.

The project is spearheaded by Gus Wolf, owner of Wolf Tree Farms in Carrol County, and Loren VanDyke Wolff and Emily Wolff of community organization Make Goebel Great. Wolf, who also serves as the manager of the Covington Farmers Market and is heavily involved in Grow the Cov, an urban agriculture initiative in the city, says that he has been thinking about and planning for this project for many years.

“On my farm, I have seen firsthand the benefits of using animals and rotational grazing to improve soil and landscape,” he said. “In Covington, I have watched the community year after year battle the honeysuckle and other invasive species in this area only to watch them grow back even stronger. The goats are the answer.”

Although this type of project is unique to the Greater Cincinnati area, goats have been used for similar purposes in other cities across the country, such as Washington D.C. and Boston. According to Wolf, the use of goats in these areas has been well-received within the communities.

On Sunday, project organizers will host an information session at Goebel Park at 2:00 p.m. to answer any questions people may have about the goats, including why they will be there and how the group will be caring for them, says VanDyke Wolff. The goats are expected to be placed at the park at the end of April or early May and will stay there through the end of October or until the brush stops growing.

“We’ll be explaining the containment process through temporary fencing installations, specifically how this process is used to improve the hillside by rotational grazing,” said VanDyke Wolff. “The goal Sunday is also to recruit volunteers to help with the project. We want to use the goats to make friends and build camaraderie in our community. The goal is to have everyone in our community thinking of these goats as their goats and have everyone looking out for them.”

This project is just the latest effort to improve Covington’s Goebel Park, a greenspace which sits at one of the more prominent gateways into city on 5th Street. Emily Wolff, co-chair of Make Goebel Great, says that “there is overwhelming excitement about the coming goats.” At Sunday’s information session, Wolff is inviting kids in the community to take part in a special art project tied to the coming of the goats.

“I will be offering a kids art project where we will be painting a colorful tribe of goats,” said Wolff. “We are going to be placing one tribe on the hillside facing I-75 and one tribe on the 5th Street side. Not only will we be adding public art as part of Make Goebel Great’s mission, but we will be engaging the community in creating creative signage to let people know the goats are coming.”

To pique people's curiosity about the project, organizers reached out to local designer Austin Dunbar of Durham Brand & Co. to help create a logo and develop a branding strategy. Dunbar says he was intrigued by the idea and after meeting with Wolf and his wife Lauren, VanDyke Wolff and Wolff, knew this was a project he would enjoy.

“At first, I was confused but also intrigued. I thought the absurdity of it could be a great opportunity to do something fun and unique for the city,” said Dunbar.

Dunbar says he hopes the logo (above image) will help build camaraderie and get people who might be skeptical about the project to let their guard down.

“I said, ‘What if we looked at these goats as a sports team of sorts that we could build camaraderie around and use witty, tongue-in-cheek dialogue to get the conversation started?’ It would be a way to soften the potential raised eyebrows of someone when another person says to them there are goats in Goebel Park.”

Wolf, whose company is providing all of the equipment, trucks, trailers, and tools needed for the project in-kind, is excited to meet with folks on Sunday afternoon and believes this project will benefit the community in many ways outside of just cleaning up the park.

“I believe the goats give us a very unique way to engage and educate the community in a fun way,” he said. “I believe there are many life lessons learned through animal husbandry and farming and I believe those lessons can be even more profound in an urban environment.”

- Story by Jerod Theobald, managing editor/Images by Durham Brand & Co.

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