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RESIDENTS AT A LOSS ABOUT GOAT POPULATION

March 2, 2002 – Frustration with the local government's failure to rein in a Coral Bay farmer who lets his goats run far and wide and with the government's inability to round up those that have gone wild topped the discussion at Saturday's St. John Community Foundation meeting in Coral Bay.
The meeting was called to distribute summaries of the Planning and Natural Resources Department's working document on a management plan for the Coral Bay area of particular concern.
The goat topic also had come up when PNR held a meeting on the APC management plan on Feb. 22. At that time, naturalist Eleanor Gibney said the goat population in St. John had tripled in the last 10 years.
Mary Blazine, executive director of the St. John Community Foundation, said that Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Raymond Thomas had told her he was willing to help get rid of the goats. However, over the last few years residents have made repeated pleas to Agriculture officials on St. Thomas as well as St. John, with no results.
Residents have been plagued with the goats devouring their plants, leaving fecal matter on their driveways and terrifying their household pets. As goats begat other goats, the hillsides above Coral Bay have come to serve as home to huge populations of the animals.
"We drove a herd of 30 of them down the hill the other day," Upper Carolina resident Ken Damon said.
Blazine, who lives at the far reaches of the East End, said she counted 35 along the road between her house and Vie's Snack Shack, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile.
Jeannie Williamson, who lives in Coral Bay, said she had nursed along some bird-of-paradise, or crab claw, plants next to her cistern. When the goats came along, "They ate them to the ground," she said.
Fencing would keep the goats out, but the steep terrain on the hillsides makes it a difficult and expensive proposition. Damon said he might build a 20-foot square enclosure, entice the goats in with water and grain, and then call the Agriculture Department to pick them up.
Blazine suggested that someone apply for a grant to develop a farm to produce goat milk, cheese and meat. "We have to come up with creative solutions. It's a matter of getting someone inspired," she said.
In discussing the main topic of the meeting, the APC management plan, Blazine said that lots of grant money is available for projects to better the community. She said the plan calls for the government and residents to work together, and "It's putting people in a proactive position."
She called on all Coral Bay residents and groups such as homeowner associations and the Coral Bay Yacht Club to let their views be known. The deadline is March 22 to comment on the proposals in the APC draft management plan. Comments in writing should be mailed to Bill Rohring, Planning and Natural Resources, Cyril E. King Airport, 2nd floor, St. Thomas 00802, or e-mailed to bill.rohring@noaa.gov. Rohring can be reached by telephone at 774-3320, ext. 5107.
The entire document is available for review at the Elaine Sprauve Library in Cruz Bay. A synopsis is available at Connections in Coral Bay.

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