Goats Delight in Chomping Shrubbery for new section of STO Trail

Sound To Olympics Trail
Goats at Sakai Park – Photos courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation

They came, they ate, and they left.

About 120 goats of all shapes, sizes and breeds munched their way through a smorgasbord of shrubs, overgrown blackberry bushes, prickly plants, tree saplings, weeds, ivy and other wild growth as part of a clean-up project for the next phase of the Sound to Olympics Trail.

You might have seen those warm and fuzzy looking creatures enjoying our local greenery over the past week or so on a one-acre plot adjacent to the Chevron Station and Jake’s Pick Up on the corner of High School Road and Highway 305.

They were a sight to behold, whether you were an animal lover, a curious onlooker in a car, or passerby on foot.

The great goat invasion was orchestrated and paid for by the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation. The goats represent a more environmentally friendly way to prepare the lot for construction of the new Sound To Olympics Trail (STO) extension, and the nearby Sakai Pond Connector. With the clearing work now basically completed, a City of Bainbridge Island contractor eventually will move in and build the trail.

The 10-foot-wide, multi-use section will run north from the High School Road/305 intersection to the southeast corner of Sakai Park. There, the path will link up with trails and boardwalks built last year by the Park District’s Summer Trails Crew. That work also was funded by the Parks Foundation.

Sound to the Olympics Trail
Goats – Sakai Park clean-up – photos courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation

“My guess is that most islanders have never been to Sakai Park and probably don’t even know that there is a Sakai Pond,” said Bainbridge City Councilor Leslie Schneider, a big backer of the STO, in a Parks Foundation press release. “Now that there are trails through the park, this small section of the STO will make an important connection to the park from a very visible corner. And regeneration of the native environment is the vision behind clearing the invasives.”

Friends of the STO Trail advocate Don Willott echoed Schneider’s comments.

“That’s the experience we’ve had with the (nearby) John Nelson Trail,” Willott said. “Even though the trail was there, it looked like you were going onto private property to get to it. As soon as we put in the trail connection from the STO, where you could see it, the Nelson Trail became a place.”

The first leg of the trail – from Winslow Way to High School Road – met with some controversy when it was built three years ago. Since then, the corridor has been extensively replanted with native vegetation.

“It was important that this new section of the STO first demonstrate that we’re working on creating a native habitat corridor,” Willott said, “then we build the trail once we’ve demonstrated good faith in making it a beautiful place that we’d like the whole 305 corridor to be.”

Meanwhile, the friendly herd of goats – with breeds ranging from Alpines to LaManchas – have since packed up and left the island. Over the years, goats have performed similar clearing projects at other island parks.

“They’re happy. They’re doing what goats are designed to do,” said Tammy Dunakin of Vashon Island, whose herd scarfed up the STO weed-scape in less than the original six-day bid. “They’re designed to eat ‘browse’ – not feed or hay, that’s not their main thing. They love to climb, and they love new things because they’re very smart and very inquisitive.”

“This kind of (project) meets all those things that they love,” she added.  And many islanders enjoyed watching them at work!

What’s next now that the goats are gone? A discussion from the BI Senior/Community Center https://youtu.be/CQdF1AGlH38

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