Spring Hill Committee Deals with Invasive Species Control

By Paul Conyer

The Chester Spring Hill Advisory Committee met on July 18 to discuss several issues related to pest control at Spring Hill Park. The issue of invasive species is ongoing, one that has dominated the past few meetings with the outstanding solution for using goats as a form of plant control.
Nick and Christy Ortins attended the meeting to expand on their idea to introduce goats to Spring Hill Park. Christy described the idea as a “passion project,” using goats instead of chemicals reduces the spread of invasive species at Spring Hill.
“Ideally, we would want to start with six goats, the ones that we have looked at and lined up if we get approval are dwarf goats, so it wouldn’t be an overwhelming start” Christy stated, hoping to start small. “The idea would be to start with the beginning of the field and have them jump to different sections of the park.”
The Ortins’ have researched the effectiveness of biological control with invasive species.
Christy believes that for large, invasive trees, “if the goats can defoliate a tree twice before winter, it will kill the tree.” Trees and plants too large to defoliate using the goats would require manual removal with chainsaws. Goats can be strategically shifted to new portions of Spring Hill Park as needed to eat the sprouts of invasive species.
The idea is to store the goats using a basic corral, without adding any new structures to the park.
“In the long run, we want to turn this into a business” Christy said, hoping that the successful use of goats to control invasive species in Chester will prove the effectiveness of biological control to surrounding towns in southern New Hampshire. She conceded that there would be a learning curve to several aspects of the goat project.
The Ortins have been in contact with the Conservation Committee of Sandown and know there is a demand throughout the region for a safe and cost-effective way to deal with invasive plants.
Logistics were a concern for the Spring Hill Committee, especially when it comes to getting water to the goats and insuring the animals along with cleanup for the fields. Christy has already insured her animals for the project while discussing the possible use of nearby wells to keep the goats supplied with a steady supply of fresh water, especially in the winter.
As a potential for-profit venture, the Committee raised the future possibility of charging rent for the use of space on Spring Hill, though such rent would only happen if the Ortins proposal proves to be lucrative. Member, Stephen Landau, clarified “If you’re making a profit off it, that’s where the town would want to see a rental of the space.” The debate over possible rent will only be relevant if the idea proves successful.
Members agreed to look at the proposal, agreeing to forward it to the Chester Board of Selectmen sometime soon.
The Spring Hill Committee will hold its next meeting on Monday, August 15 at 7 pm.