ASHEVILLE NC – Starting May 12, 2015, the ‘goats of the gorge,’ previously seen working along HWY 74-A last fall, will be working near the attraction at Chimney Rock State Park. The project is made possible by the partnership of Chimney Rock State Park (CHRO), Chimney Rock Management, LLC., the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park and the Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG). Goats, fence, and maintenance during the project are provided by KD Ecological Services (KDES), a local habitat management and restoration business out of Mill Spring, NC.
In order to accomplish this important conservation work, a partnership was formed. CHRO, Chimney Rock Management, LLC., and the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park were able to provide funds, advertising and approval of the project. WAC-HNG is a Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy-run program operating in HNG to support local landowners in managing non-native invasive plant species on their properties. WAC-HNG partners with CHRO frequently and presented and facilitated the project in an effort to further their mission of protecting “the natural communities and scenic beauty of the HNG by managing… non-native invasive plant species”.
Fifteen goats will be hard at work on a 2 acre plot near the upper parking lot of the attraction, beginning May 12, for about 3-4 weeks. This area of the park is a dense monoculture of non-native invasive species that out-compete native plants and contribute to hazards like erosion and landslide. Monocultures of non-natives prevent soil stability normally provided by a diverse group of native plants. The HNG is susceptible to such events because of steep slopes and heavy rain events.
CHRO falls into a significant natural heritage area (SNHA) known as Chimney Rock Natural Area, a SNHA of “outstanding” significance, the highest level of ranking. SNHAs are evaluated on the basis of the occurrences of rare plant and animal species, rare or high quality natural communities and special animal habitats, determined by the NC Natural Heritage Program within NCDENR. Because of this classification, it is imperative to preserve these natural communities and the animals and plants present.
The goats will devour anything in their sight, which was an important factor in choosing an area for treatment. The determined plot is home to mostly kudzu, one of the goats’ favorite meals, but also other invasive plants including Princess Tree, Oriental Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose and more. Goats are excellent candidates for this project because of their small body size, agility in navigating the uneven hillsides of the HNG, and preference for feeding on woody vegetation, including thorny plants. The goats will clear the 2 acres in about 3-4 weeks in May and June, and will re-treat the area again in the fall. The site will then be monitored for regrowth and the project will be reassessed for next year.
About Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG)
WAC-HNG is an initiative of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy that works as a coalition of area partners to protect the native habitat of the Hickory Nut Gorge. WAC-HNG does this by eradicating invasive species which threaten our natural communities.
About Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is a developing international outdoor destination located 25 miles southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, N.C. It is recognized as one of the Southeast’s most iconic sites and popular travel destinations. The Park’s 535-million-year-old monolith called Chimney Rock can be accessed via a 491-step Outcroppings Trail or a 26-story elevator and offers guests 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. The Park features one of the highest waterfalls of its kind east of the Mississippi River, Hickory Nut Falls, at 404 feet. Hickory Nut Gorge, one of the state’s most significant centers of biodiversity, is home to 36 rare plant species and 14 rare animal species. The Rumbling Bald section of the greater State Park off of Boys Camp Road in Chimney Rock is the only other area of the Park that is currently open to the public. A destination for travel groups, weddings and special events, the Chimney Rock section of the Park also hosts innovative educational programs for schools, homeschoolers, scouts and summer camps. Visit Chimney Rock’s website at chimneyrockpark.com.