‘Parks plan adds goats as weed-whackers” (March 19), regarding the Minneapolis Park Board’s idea of enlisting the help of goat herds to further reduce the city’s use of pesticides within its parks, was a good read. Perhaps more suited to appear in the Onion, however.

Managing buckthorn will continue to be an ongoing challenge to park boards, homeowners and even goats.

However, when it comes to managing the city’s parks and ball fields, I would strongly encourage the Park Board to focus more on cultural methods of weed control that treat the symptoms rather than the cause. Banking on a goat’s voracious appetite and fondness for buckthorn to solve the problem at hand is, at best, entertaining.

There has been an ongoing imbalance within the Minneapolis park system between managing inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, grass seed, soil amendments, etc.) and providing a quality ground cover that meets the demands and expectations of the community. Instead of gravitating to the extremes (overuse/misuse of pesticides at one end, and herding goats on the other), why not meet in the middle?

Under the direction of academic environmental stewards such as Brian Horgan, Eric Watkins and Sam Bauer at the University of Minnesota, more attention is being focused on low-input sustainable turf care within the green industry.

Russ Henry, a “potential Park Board candidate” as noted in the article, is spot-on. The Park Board needs to start by managing the soil. Through a steadfast commitment to soil health and cultural turf management, a healthy, dense turf can be achieved by creating an environment in which the turf and other ground covers can flourish.

These programs would depend little (if at all) on pesticide use and would include environmentally responsible practices such as aggressive soil core aeration, proper fertility (organics could play a big part), and frequent overseeding using turf grass species and cultivars suited to low-input maintenance. These grasses, once established, require less water, less mowing and less fertilizer and will maintain a thick, highly dense canopy keeping most weeds at bay.

This isn’t rocket science, folks.

If the Park Board wants to raise goats, it should buy a farm 100 miles west of here. Maybe add a few alpaca to the herd while they’re at it.

And a brief, closing message to Russ Henry: Let’s remove that “potential” from your Park Board candidacy. You’re badly needed to steer this initiative.

Let’s use proven cultural methods to remedy this problem.

Not goats.


Joe Churchill, of Minnetonka, is a turf grass specialist.