Welty will use herd of goats to clear brush

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Photo provided The Welty Environmental Center will bring in a herd of 70 goats to help restore natural prairie at Big Hill Park next month.

BELOIT - Welty Environmental Center is getting the goat...70, in fact.

In cooperation with the Beloit Parks and Recreation Department, the Welty Center is sponsoring a herd or tribe of 70 goats to graze and clear invasive brush and shrubs to restore the 90-acre prairie adjacent to the center.

Grazing is set for July 7 through July 21.

The prairie restoration effort has been a collaborative effort with Rock County Conservationists and Green-Rock Audubon, according to Welty Center Executive Director Brenda Plakans.

"This is an exciting way to move the restoration project along," Plakans said. "We're inviting the public to come out to Big Hill to learn about our efforts and watch goats do what they do best - eat!"

The goats will be penned behind temporary fencing in the park during their stay and for their protection.

Welty is sponsoring a "Graze with the Goats" picnic fundraiser on from noon - 3 p.m. on July 14. Families can watch goats munch brush and shrubs while they munch hot dogs, brats, Frito Lay chips and Culver's ice cream.

The public also will learn about this all-natural process to help restore the Midwest's vanishing prairies. Goats are a sustainable, eco-friendly way to clear unwanted, woody vegetation, while leaving native prairie grasses and plants alone, according to Green Goat owner Kim Hunter.

The goats could even return this fall, with the first visit aimed at decimating the tall, thorny brush, with a second pass to get all leftover roots. Annual goat visits are even a possibility.

Through funds from the Visit Beloit Joint Efforts in Tourism Grant, Welty will have seven interpretive signs along Big Hill Park trail so residents can hike and learn about the history of this 94-year-old park.

"This is a fun opportunity for families to learn more about the project, hike Big Hill Park to find all the gorgeous new signs, and have lunch," Plakans said.

Volunteers have been recruited to monitor the goats overnight, and the general public is welcome to visit the prairie to see the goats in action while they are hard at work during regular park hours (9 a.m. - 9 p.m.).

For more information, and to sign up to sponsor-a-goat, visit the Welty Environmental Center's website weltycenter.org or call 608-362-6212.

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