Goats may be on their way to Barker Stewart Island

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Starting in July, you might be seeing goats working over at Barker Stewart Island in Wausau to help control invasive vegetation.

The goats would act as a replacement of chemicals and will eat away the invasive plants while helping the native vegetation continue to grow.

Invasive vegetation at Barker Stewart Island has gotten out of hand and using goats to minimize growth could be Wausau’s ace in the hole.

“The objective here is to control the invasives, so there are some areas and pockets in here that we do want to protect,” Wausau Forester Andrew Sims said.

Sims said there’s many invasive plants on the island such as honeysuckle and buckthorn causing harm to native vegetation.

“We’ve been trying to manage that vegetation and still preserve the nice park-like setting that we have,” Sims said.

Sims said by removing the bad, it will allow the native plants to grow stronger. The plan is to bring in 50 goats by early July to eat away that invasive vegetation for about three weeks total.

This is the more environmentally friendly route versus using chemicals near the river.

“We are not having a goat park, it won’t be a park but it will be the use of goats here and we’ll make a fun event out of it, something unique that we can bring to the community and the mayor can get involved with,” Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry for Wausau and Marathon County Jamie Polley said.

The goats are coming from liberation farmers in Almond.

Also part of the project, Polley said they’re working with the historical society and the community foundation to relocate the old sawmill to the island.

The timbers would be functional for the community as a shelter.

“It would be more [of] an open air shelter that people could rent, but there isn’t a road access that’s very easy onto the island so it would be a very unique amenity for the community to use,” Polley said.

Plans for the sawmill are expected by mid-August.

$70 thousand in funding for improving Barker Stewart Island comes from the capital improvement projects of the city.

Farm animals are currently not allowed in Wausau, but that could change if city council passes the proposal in their next meeting.

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