LIMA — With Schoonover Lake on Lima’s northeast side sitting dry for more than a year as contractors completed numerous infrastructure projects, nature predictably took over. The lake bed, once completely submerged, is currently covered with tree seedlings, noxious weeds and thick underbrush.
Recent rains have left puddles here and there which have served as temporary homes to mallards and other migrating waterfowl, but for the most part the dry lake has been devoid of life.
Until late this week. That’s when the goats arrived.
Yep, goats. Five of them. And they’re on the city’s payroll.
Perry Township resident Kevin Cox was at the dry lake Friday morning, watching over his herd as they munched away on a mixed diet that looks vastly unappetizing to the human eye. The four-footed weed-whackers, he said, have been employed by the City of Lima to see what effect they have in reducing the amount of underbrush and weeds at Schoonover Lake before it is re-filled.
Lima Mayor David Berger confirmed Cox is being paid $15 per day per animal in what he termed an experimental program which, if successful, could result in goats being used at other hard-to-maintain areas of the city.
“We’re doing this as a trial run,” Berger said Friday. “I’ve observed in a number of other counties over the years where goats and sheep have been used in a variety of settings to manage vegetation. I talked to Kevin, and this just seemed like a good time to see if his army (of goats) could be put to work.”
The lake has been empty since June of 2019, when contractors employed by the city began a series of infrastructure improvements prompted by the need to re-fortify the lake’s dam in what was estimated to be $1.8 million in upgrades.
The dam has been reconstructed, parking and drives have been improved and a decorative island has been renovated, Public Works Director Howard Elstro said in August. Once all work is completed, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will begin the process of refilling the lake and stocking it with fish.
Cox brought five goats to the site on Thursday, erected a temporary snow fence to keep them corralled and let the animals and their natural instincts take over.
“Goats have a tendency to eat noxious weeds, so we’ll see where it goes. I’ll bed them down in a trailer each night and give them hay and grain to supplement their diet,” Cox said.
Berger said the small area in which the goats are now grazing should show some type of results within a couple of weeks. Cox agreed it’s uncertain how long the test program will continue
“We’ll just see how it works out. A lot depends on the weather. The biggest concern is for the health of the animals,” he said.
Berger said the pilot program, if successful, could result in goats being used to control vegetation on hard-to-mow locations such as overpasses.
“These goats can eat stuff in places you’d have a hard time getting a Weed Eater into,” Cox said.