Kudos to the Town of North Wilkesboro for clearing off the badly overgrown portion of the town-owned Elks Lodge property at the top of Second Street Hill, near where N.C. 268 East intersects with Second Street (N.C. 18 North).

This property is straight ahead and dominates the view of motorists coming into North Wilkesboro on N.C. 268 from the east, plus it’s very noticeable along N.C. 18.

North Wilkesboro Public Services Director Dale Shumate explained that the appearance had reached the point where something had to be done.

“This should help with the property whatever the town fathers decide to do with it,” Shumate added.

Visitors and residents alike will now get a much better impression of the town, especially in the summer if the kudzu isn’t allowed to take over again as it surely will if not eradicated or at least controlled.

Few scenes represent neglect and urban decay as much as an area of a town overgrown with kudzu.

This Asian invasive will certainly stabilize an erosion-prone slope, which is why it was first planted all over the South in the 1930s and 1940s.

The federal government offered up to $8 per acre to farmers to plant their land in kudzu.

It’s understandable that kudzu was planted on the steeply cut slope along the north side of North Wilkesboro’s River Road, but those good intentions never included spreading for acres and acres in every direction.

It jumped to the other side of River Road and at times has buried the train tracks, and even train cars parked there for extended periods.

Kudzu is advancing on multiple fronts in Wilkesboro as well, including around portions of the edges of Cub Creek Park.

This is just down the street from where the Town of Wilkesboro has spent over $2.5 million (largely funded with corporate sponsorships) to transform its downtown into a pedestrian friendly center of entertainment and activity.

A year ago, several acres of kudzu turned brown for the winter along Old Moravian Road just outside Wilkesboro helped fuel a wildfire that threatened the Westwood Hills subdivision and other homes.

Several years before that, a Wilkesboro firefighter nearly fell into an old abandoned well obscured by kudzu while fighting another fire near the end of Kelly Hill Road off Woodfield Way.

Wilkes County is dotted with countless steadily expanding patches of kudzu.

Considering this, it will be interesting to see the results of an environmentally-friendly Health Foundation plan to use goats to feed on a kudzu-infested slope surrounded with fencing at West Park. About 20 goats will be rented from the Goat Squad in Chapel Hill for this task.

Goat rentals for controlling vegetation, especially kudzu and other invasive plants, have become a thriving industry.

The North Wilkesboro commissioners amended the town’s zoning ordinance to allow goats temporarily in areas where they otherwise wouldn’t be permitted for this purpose.

North Wilkesboro Town Planner Meredith Detsch said goats have been used in municipalities throughout the state to remove kudzu and other invasive plant species.

As with using herbicides, it can take years of repeated control with grazing goats (some call it “goatscaping” or “conservation grazing”) to eradicate a well-established stand of kudzu. Great care should be taken with fencing because goats are adaptive escape artists.

We hope the Health Foundation effort with goats at West Park proves to be a good example for others to follow locally.

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