Updated: Goats to help clear vegetation along Mill Creek

This map shows the area where goats will work to clear vegetation along Mill Creek.

This map shows the area where goats will work to clear vegetation along Mill Creek. Courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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WALLA WALLA — The gravel trail on the south side of the Mill Creek channel will be temporarily closed Saturday through July 29 for goat-powered “vegetation maintenance.”

A herd of about 70 goats will be used to chew their way through vegetation growing on the levee side of the south shoreline extending from the Mill Creek diversion dam downstream to the near the Mill Creek Office.

The project will allow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff to inspect the levee later this year.

“Goat grazing is an effective way to control vegetation,” said Alex Colter, project manager for Mill Creek’s vegetation management project. “Using goats eliminates the need for chemicals or burning on creekbanks, and the goats are far more agile than people in steep, rocky areas.”

The project is being done by Healing Hoofs of Edwall, Wash., which was awarded a $2,500 contract for the vegetation removal.

The goats will be kept corralled by electric fencing and professional working dogs. People walking dogs on the north side of the creek and in Rooks Park must keep their pets leashed.

In-water recreational activities in the channel along the zone will also be suspended because the herding dogs may perceive other dogs as a threat to the goats.

“Visitors should not attempt to approach the goats or working dogs — young goats will be present and the mamas are pretty protective. So are the working dogs,” said Chris Alford, a park ranger at the Mill Creek Office. “These are not pet goats; they can be pretty skittish if people get too close. We ask the public to keep their distance and let them do their job of eating the weeds and brambles off the levee.”

For at least part of the work period, the closure will include the wooden bridge that connects Rooks Park to the trails that lead to Bennington Lake.

The horse trailer parking and turnaround area just east of the Mill Creek Project office also will be closed while the goats are on site. Visitors with horse trailers are can park at the Bennington Lake lot.

For more information, call 527-7160 or visit facebook.com/millcreekdam.

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