Cows Won't Fight Weeds in Walnut Creek

Cows used to cut grass in Walnut Creek, but won't return to open space there -- not for now, anyway.

Cows love grass, but they are not lawn-mowers. Not in Walnut Creek, anyway.

Bovines were once used to keep open space areas clear of weeds and other flora until 2009, when the Walnut Creek Park, Recreation and Open Space Commission decided to give their cattle-clearers the heave-ho, according to the Contra Costa Times, after some park users said the cows were dangerous.

Without the cows, however, weeds grew wild and tall thanks to the rainy season -- leading the city to hire other ruminants: goats. The goats chowed down on the weeds to the tune of $5,800, leading cow-supporters to lobby for a return. Despite some support -- and perhaps because of some opposition -- the commission decided to stick to its guns and nixed a plan for the, ahem, "udder" option.

Cows had grazed on the Acalanes Ridge and Sugarloaf open space areas well before there were 517 homes nearby which are, some say, at risk of fire thanks to overgrown weeds, according to the newspaper. Rancher John Hoover says the ban on grazing hurts his business, which used to enjoy open-range feeding on Acalanes for decades.

And unlike the goats, for which city leaders are paying, the cows made the city money: ranchers paid the city $5,000 a year to have their animals graze on the open space.

Neighbors who like the cows and hate the weeds say they might appeal the decision to the City Council.

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