People of Northwest Public Radio
Wed November 27, 2013
Displaced By Development Urban Goat Herd Needs A New Home
A herd of goats is getting the boot in Portland. The goats had been living on a lot in the city's southeast neighborhood, where a developer has been using them to keep the grass down. But now an apartment building is about to go up. So the goats will have to get out. That leaves a lot of people wondering how to keep goats in the city.
It's rush hour. Cars and trucks are racing past the vacant lot known to many as the goat block.
Kurtz: "Do I have it on right? This is as tight as it goes."
Here, inside a chain link fence, Jess Kurtz is strapping a harness around a young goat so they can go on a walk around the neighborhood.
Kurtz: "This is a new thing that we just started doing, so they're still all getting used to it."
The first goats were brought to the site in 2010. It was part of the nation’s urban goat migration -- they’re a natural way to deal with overgrown weeds, grass and blackberry vines. Over the years, the presence of goats has turned a vacant lot in an industrial district into something like a community petting zoo. With development plans looming, Kurtz and three other people recently bought the twelve goats currently living at the site to make sure the herd can stay together after they're displaced. They take the goats out on walks so they can interact with a community of people who have come to know and love them.
Kurtz: "We have all kinds of different types of people who come by. Some people just stand at the fence and admire that there’s a herd of goats in the middle of the city.”
The building that used to be on the lot was leveled by a fire in 2002. According to Bret Walton of development company Killian Pacific, redevelopment of the site has always been the plan. It just took a while before the plan came together. And, in the meantime, bringing in goats to mow the grass turned the lot into an attraction.
Walton: "We couldn't have imagined the reaction we would have received over the years. Now, quite honestly, if you refer to the goat block most people know exactly what you're talking about."
With development beginning next year, it's time for the goats to go. They're all set to move next month to a private farm outside of town. But the owners hope to bring them back to the city when they find the right place.
Kurtz: "We've had a lot of people offer us land out of city limits and in rural areas, which is great, and it's awesome to know that the community supports us so much, but we do want to find something a bit more public."
The owners are planning to start a nonprofit organization to secure an urban home for the goats long term.
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