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Invasive plants were too much for humans to handle in an NYC park. Enter the goats.

Two dozen goats were herded through Riverside Park in New York on July 14 to feast on invasive weeds as part of the ceremonial “Running of the Goats.” (Video: Reuters, Photo: Roselle Chen/Reuters/Reuters)

Two dozen goats clomped through a New York City park Wednesday with a mission: Whack the weeds.

As invasive and unruly plant species blanketed a steep part of Riverside Park’s terrain that proved too difficult for human conservators to wrangle, they looked for an alternate option. What they landed on was either untraditional or the most traditional method available.

The Riverside Park Conservancy said it had been trying to control species such as porcelain berry, English ivy, mugwort, multiflora rose and poison ivy for years with little success.

Enter the herd.

Wednesday’s event, dubbed the “Running of the Goats,” was really much more of a stroll. Maybe a trot, for some. That might be generous.

A crowd of revelers gathered to watch the goats’ send-off, eagerly chiming in for the yodeling bits as a choir sang “The Lonely Goatherd” from “The Sound of Music.” Though most of the herd left the park Wednesday, five lucky goats will be allowed to summer there.

People clad in yellow Riverside Park Conservancy T-shirts functioned simultaneously as cheerleaders and shepherds for the goats, ushering them past the spectators and a media gaggle with camera shutters aflutter.

The goats, “who have all retired from former careers,” the conservancy’s website says, ambled dutifully along toward their task. They were first employed as an eco-friendly landscaping crew for the park in 2019, but their sophomore tour was canceled last year due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Are goats the new weed whackers? Plenty of people want them to be.

The conservancy even came up with a new name for the difficult-to-access part of the park’s northern region, now managed by mammals: Goatham.

“Putting them to work in Goatham is like treating them to an all-you-can-eat buffet,” Riverside Park Conservancy President and CEO Dan Garodnick said at a news conference. “It’s healthy for the goats and it’s good for the environment. That’s farm to table.”

New York City Council member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, said the event was especially joyous after the isolating and somber last year the world has endured.

“It's just what the doctor ordered,” she said.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer agreed. She said she heard someone at the event say they hadn’t been this happy in months.

“I don’t care if you’re an adult or a child, you just love those goats when they come out of that truck,” Brewer said.

Jeffrey Wayno, a librarian at Columbia University, works just around the corner from the park. He was running some errands Wednesday morning when he saw the pageantry of the goats’ first day back.

Thursday afternoon, Wayno said he spotted all five goats lounging, occasionally chomping on the surrounding foliage.

The so-called “Fabulous Five” goats who get to remain in the park for the summer — Skittles, Buckles, Chalupa, Mallomar and Ms. Bo Peep — all have detailed bios available on the conservancy’s website.

Buckles, though popular, can’t always differentiate porcelain berry from mugwort.

At the end of the summer, one goat will earn the title of G.O.A.T. — greatest of all time. The ranked choice-election will “go off without a hitch,” the website promises.

Goat lovers can cast their votes online. The 2019 winner, Massey, was bestowed a trophy, medal and a bouquet of weeds.

Wayno isn’t sure whether he’ll vote in the election, whose gentle stab at ranked-choice voting he appreciated, but Chalupa will be his pick if he does. He likes the goat’s big floppy ears.

“They’re all kind of endearing,” Wayno said. “I feel like goats are sort of endearingly awkward creatures.”

Chalupa, so far, seems to be a fan favorite. Rosenthal said while she did connect with Chalupa when she had a chance to pet him, she intends to carry on her city council legacy of supporting women in office by voting for a female goat. Ms. Bo Peep is a top contender.

Rosenthal said she only has one reservation about the goat run becoming annual:

“The goat humor does not seem to get any better,” she said.

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