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Friday, March 11, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 3:14 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
This week Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to a partnership with Tree Pittsburgh that would utilize goats in city parks.

 "A couple years ago there was sort of a demonstration project done out in West Penn Park by Tree Pittsburgh and the goats, and it was what we would consider a very successful project," said Public Works Director Mike Gable. "So it's been a desire the last few years to continue to bring this into the parks. These goats do get into areas that we would not normally be able to get to with the crews or even volunteers."

The goats would be used to control invasive vegetation in city parks and hillsides. The first areas chosen for the program are Highland Park, Emerald View Park in Mount Washington and West Penn Park in Polish Hill. 

"The goats will reside in the park and take care of the vegetation and then be moved to other areas of the park," said Gable. 

The project is being funded in part with a $10,000 grant from the Allegheny County Conservation District. The goats are being provided by Steel City Grazers.

"What happens is these vines and these plants overgrow and they take out the trees, and then we have major stabilization issues," said Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh. "We don't just send the goats in, they eat everything and then we leave. There's a maintenance plan and a planting plan that follows the goats." 

Additional support for the project, such as putting up signs and fences to hold the goats will be provided by Tree Pittsburgh, the Mount Washington Development Corporation and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

"If we don't take drastic measures and do something about this now, we're going to be facing a lot of major problems on our hillsides," said Crumrine. "As temperatures get warmer, these invasive plants get worse because they're able to grow faster."

Several other members of council expressed interest in having the goats operate in parks in their districts as well.

"The growth of the vines have been getting thicker and thicker and going up the hill into the communities now and trees have just been dropping because of the weight of the vines," said District 2 Councilor Darlene Harris. "I think I asked a few years ago if they could get some interns for that, but I think the goats could handle it much easier."

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 2:15 PM

click to enlarge Jody Noble-Choder, of Highland Park, holds one of her Indian Runner ducks. Before today's urban agriculture amendments, Noble-Choder's animals were illegally kept in her yard. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
Photo by Heather Mull
Jody Noble-Choder, of Highland Park, holds one of her Indian Runner ducks. Before today's urban agriculture amendments, Noble-Choder's animals were illegally kept in her yard.
In a unanimous vote this morning, Pittsburgh City Council passed amendments to the urban-agriculture zoning code, making it a right, rather than an exception to the law, for residents to have bees, chickens, ducks and even goats.

"We’re really grateful for the city’s leadership on this," says Marisa Manheim of Grow Pittsburgh, one of four organizations that collaborated with the Department of City Planning on the amendments. Other organizations included Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People, Burgh Bees and the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council of Penn State Center-Pittsburgh.

Council voted 8-0 (Councilor Daniel Lavelle was absent) to change the 2011 urban-agriculture zoning code, making the process easier and cheaper for residents, and expanding the zoning areas for where urban-agriculture activities can take place.

"I'm in support because I think it removes barriers for those participating in urban agriculture," Councilor Natalia Rudiak told City Paper last week before the vote.

Under the 2011 zoning rules, residents had to apply for a variance, costing them more than $300 and taking up to four months. The new rules require a one-time fee of $70 and reduces the paperwork to just a few forms.

"It might be a couple papers and site plan that needs to be drawn, and we'll have instructions for that," says Shelly Danko-Day, the city planning open-spaces specialist.

Danko-Day says that the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections will likely visit a resident's home to assure that any animal enclosures are properly installed.

Another big change for the city is the fact that privately owned land in some zoning districts, including highway commercial, neighborhood commercial and industrial areas, will now be allowed to have agriculture as the primary activity on the land.

"I'm excited about that," she says. "We have a lot of vacant land that's not being utilized."

 Resident still must adhere to measurement standards. For instance, people who have a 2,000-square-foot lot, including their house or other structures, can have up to two beehives with five chickens or ducks, or two beehives with two miniature goats. The rules change depending on the size of one's property, and Grow Pittsburgh has published an easy-to-understand version on its website.

"Beyond the actual produce itself, it gives people a chance to engage with their food and understand the food system," Manheim says. "We hear about avian flu in the central U.S., and it resonates so much more when people understand the needs these animals have."

Also, the legislation now opens the door for people to sell produce from on-site farmstands from their backyards.

"We’re excited about the possibilities this will open for individuals, communities and organizations here in the city," says Heather Mikulas, of Penn State Center-Pittsburgh. "It can really have a positive impact on the quality of life. It has implications of more beautiful greens spaces, potential economic activities, healthier and more active lifestyles, and could change how the face of Pittsburgh looks."

Check out this week's City Paper on the impact of the new legislation in Wednesday's print and online editions. 
 






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