By Anna Mejorada
On Friday, July 7th, as they have since 2018 (skipping 2020 because of the pandemic), a squad of goats from Rhinebeck, New York, will arrive on the Upper West Side, to kick off Riverside Park Conservancy’s 2023 Goatham Initiative.
Following in the hoofprints of their legendary predecessors, this year’s goats will spend the summer on the steep western slopes of Riverside Park’s Forever Wild woodland, between 119th and 122nd Streets. There, “undaunted by the treacherous terrain and loving the sweet taste of poison ivy and other invasives,” they will eat their way “through aggressive growth nearly inaccessible to gardeners, making space for more ecologically suitable plantings in this crucial forested area,” a Conservancy press release explained.
This year, however, there will be a difference: instead of the traditional “running of the goats,” which drew hundreds of spectators last year, this year’s goats — Charlie, Cowgirl, Mallomar, and Chico — will be introduced to the public at the first-ever Goatham Festival, to be held July 7th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Conservancy’s brand-new Compost Compound, located at 95th Street (adjacent to the Westside Highway).
“The three-hour festival will feature local vendor booths, live music, goat-themed merchandise (proceeds to Riverside Park Conservancy), photo-ops, arts & crafts, and educational activities for all ages,” the release continued. “Serving as ambassadors for the Conservancy’s larger eco-friendly practices, the goats will be the guests of honor at the “ribbon chewing” for the new composting facility.”
The site will serve as the hub for a park-wide composting initiative to increase the on-site conversion of landscape waste into nutrient-rich compost that will be put back into the park. Composting is a natural process that turns organic matter, such as leaves, clippings, and other plant material collected during normal maintenance operations into fertilizer. The in-park operations “will minimize the amount of material taken to landfills and reduce the need to purchase and bring in additional compost from external sites,” said Meredith Birnbaum, President and CEO of Riverside Park Conservancy. “They’re not only adorable weed-eaters, they’re also representatives of the sustainable practices the Conservancy embraces in all aspects of our work, from composting plant material, to creating new habitats for pollinators, to facilitating environmental education opportunities through our public programming.”
It is tradition to close out goat season with the crowning of a fan-elected G.O.A.T. of the year. An awards ceremony is tentatively planned for September, with an emphasis on tentatively. Last summer, the insatiable goats did such a great job chomping away at their assignment that they were able to call it quits in August.