Could goats replace lawn mowers in maintaining Cleveland inner city vacant lots?

Pilot project being used in Cleveland's west side

CLEVELAND - The City of Cleveland is now testing goats as a more efficient and environmentally-friendly way to maintain a growing number of inner city vacant lots.

The pilot program is called "Mow Goats," and it's being tested by the Stockyard-Clark-Fulton Development Office.

Program director Megan Meister is testing the use of goats at several vacant lots on Cleveland's near west side after conducting 18 months of research. She showed NewsChannel5 how a team of four goats can mow and entire vacant lot in just two hours, by chewing down the grass and brush, even pruning smaller trees.

"The goats will save the city money, and their effort has no environmental impact," said Meister. "The equivalent of a riding mower operating for one hour emits the same emissions into the air that 34 cars do for one hour."

Meister said nearly all northeast Ohio cities are being forced to take care of a growing number of vacant lots because of the housing crisis aftermath. The cost to mow such lots is going up dramatically. Meister claims it costs Cleveland an average of $300 just to mow and maintain the average vacant inner city lot.

The "Mow Goats" are from a farm in Madison, Ohio, and are being managed by Marguerite Hutcheson.  The goat droppings are collected at each site, and are taken to local community gardens.

Hutcheson showed NewsChannel5 how the goats are transported from lot to lot with their own trailer. Hutcheson believes the mow goats also promote volunteerism, and a sense of community whereever they're on the job.

"We're really building community, we're all coming together here," said Hutcheson. "We've recruited a ton of volunteers to help us, and we're all working together and learning from each other."

It's still not clear if the "Mow Goat" project is considered a success by city officials, or whether there are plans to bring on a second crew. However, Cleveland residents who have seen the goats in action believe goats are the way to go.

"I think it's a great idea," said resident Art Ledger. "I imagine 100 goats on the near west side would clean-up every lot."

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