Lents Grown Awhile Longer (And Then?)

The Belmont Goats detail a very local move, invite other neighborhoods to pitch the herd’s next home

We came to Lents in the fall of 2014 under a Portland Development Commission initiative to site interesting projects on several empty properties in the Town Center area on an interim basis until those locations could undergo development. The herd’s presence at our current lot on SE 91st between Foster and Reedway was understood from the very beginning to be temporary.

With the development of our current site finally on the way, we’ve spent the last month or so comparing relocation options. Today we are pleased officially to announce that as it stands now we will remain in Lents Town Center until sometime in the first half of 2017. Over the course of March and April of this year, we will move all of two blocks northeast to what’s known as lot “92H”, between Wattles Boys & Girls Club and Carpet Outlet. As before, the Portland Development Commission will be assisting our relocation.

Lents was the first test of being able to relocate the herd after two years in Buckman, and now we’ll be able to test not just a second move but also the planned modularity of the barn and our fence deconstruction/reconstruction skills without leaving the neighborhood.

Once we start getting all the paperwork in place, we will share our ideas for how we will utilize 92H, including our layout. We also will share what sorts of help we will need along the way during the construction process. Look for these updates on Facebook and Twitter. There no doubt will be much to do, and we fully expect to continue the work party tradition which started when we began site planning and construction where we are now. Everyone here at The Belmont Goats looks forward to continuing our engagement with the Lents community, and continuing the experience for the Portland community at large.

This move comes with benefits and drawbacks.

It keep us awhile longer in the neighborhood which so graciously invited us and which has been so welcoming ever since, and promises some interesting neighborhood activity during construction, transition, and the actual move of the herd itself; many of our goats will be able to walk from old home to new.

A potential stay on 92H only into the first half of 2017, however, might mean moving twice in (roughly) a single 12-month period. That would pose both programmatic and fiscal challenges, as such a narrow residency window could result in less attention and fewer resources then we would like devoted to activities rather than to planning for another imminent move. It also could mean that rather than conducting a relocation fundraiser once every two or three years (our ultimate goal, as we seek to share this experience with different neighborhoods around the city over time), we could be faced with the prospect of having to tap that well twice in the span of a year.

We’ll navigate these challenges as best we can; they’re all a part of the adventure of being Portland’s resident herd.

As it stands, the use permit for our current SE 91st runs through April. Our intention is to launch a fundraising campaign in February and March (yes, the long-awaited t-shirt fundraiser). Unlike the crowdfunder for our relocation to Lents, this will involve neither a variety of perks nor us handling fulfillment by ourselves. Given a successful enough fundraiser, we will set aside some portion and dedicate it to the post-92H move, to mitigate against the challenges of potentially moving twice in a year.

One final note: while we will have a slightly-extended stay in Lents, yes, we remain The Belmont Goats. Once our stay on 92H is complete, that will be it for viable property in the Town Center area. Our current mission is to share this experience with different areas of the city over time, while crediting how this all began.

Timed to coincide with this lateral move within Lents Town Center, we’ve revised our Hosting the Belmont Goats: A Relocation How-To document to reflect our current schedule. If you think your neighborhood would be a good fit for us in the future, please start work on proposals right away. We’d love to be looking at initial pitches by the end of Spring 2016, with an eye toward those targeting a move in the first half of 2017.

The sooner yours becomes the next host neighborhood, the sooner we can focus on making our final months in Lents the best they can be.

The Belmont Goats is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of Oregon, EIN 46-5038819. We rely on your contributions to help keep the herd healthy, happy, and accessible to the public. You can also donate via PayPal or Square Cash, and set your AmazonSmile, eBay, or eScrip charity to The Belmont Goats.

Help #OregoniansGive to the Goats for #GivingTuesday

For two years, we’ve depended upon your generous support to help our all-volunteer staff of goatherds keep the animals healthy, happy, and accessible to you. Your help does everything from feed the herd to allow us to invite you inside.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve worked on transitioning from working with a local nonprofit in our current Lents Town Center residence to obtaining our own 501(c)(3) status. Today, just in time for Giving Tuesday (and this state’s Oregonians Give component), the start of the holidays, and your end-of-year generosity, we’re happy to announce that our online donation page is up and running.

(You can also set your AmazonSmile or eScrip charity to The Belmont Goats. Fred Meyer Community Rewards is still in the works.)

Since its beginnings in the Buckman neighborhood, our herd became less about controlling the local weed population than about enhancing the lives of the local neighborhood population, becoming in the words of one supporter the “nexus of an unexpected and spontaneous community”. The Belmont Goats became something of an oasis of calm for countless people who changed the routes of their walks, their bike rides, and their daily commutes simply to pass by or to stop for a visit. The experience became about open, but not empty, space. About nature in the city. About animals amidst industry. About community livability.

Much as many people consider owning a cat or a dog to be a therapeutic thing to do, most visitors to the “goat blocks”—not just the denizens of a local retirement community or the occasional lone sufferer of PTSD—considered our herd to be a therapeutic part of their day or week. Both a relief and a respite, shared across a wide spectrum of people rather than indulged in alone.

These, in the end, are neither country goats nor working goats. Their “job” isn’t to clear land of blackberry bushes or poison ivy. Rather, they have much the same job as your own pets, except they’ve done that job for an entire community of people rather than just for yourself or your own family.

During the transition between Buckman and Lents, when visitors were not allowed inside the gates, it wasn’t only the people who were disappointed. For the first several days, even the less sociable of our goats lingered along the fence line near the entrance. Goats are social animals, and for an entire spring and summer they in a sense belonged to two separate but linked herds: one comprised of goats and one comprised of people. They, too, knew something was missing.

During our time in Lents, nestled between Portland Fire & Rescue Station 11 and the summer location of the Lents International Farmers Market, we’ve participated in local street fairs and parades. We’ve hosted birthday visits, photography classes, bicycle tours, senior groups, and Goodwill outings. We even inspired the name of the neighborhood’s “Put a Goat On It” holiday bazaar.

This story so far has been made possible by the support of you, the goats’ “people herd”. Whether by your contributions to the crowdfunder that enabled our relocation from Buckman to Lents, your physical labor during the work parties to construct our fencing and barn, or your kind treatment of the animals and respect for their home, The Belmont Goats cannot exist without you.

On our our online donation page you’ll find examples of what your financial contribution does for the herd, from the web hosting that helps tell their story, to the insurance that lets us invite you inside, to the grass hay that helps keep them fed.

All of us who own, care for, or keep and eye on the herd are regularly overwhelmed by your support, and we hope that our ongoing partnership continues to be rewarding for both herds.

The Next Time We Move

When we relocated the herd to Lents from the Buckman neighborhood last year, it was as part of a Portland Development Commission effort to bring interesting interim and temporary uses to some of the vacant properties it owns in Lents Town Center. Under a temporary use permit requiring annual renewal, we have use of our current location until the time comes when it, too, will be developed.

It all comes down to the eventual determination as to the length of “interim” and “temporary”.

Earlier this year, PDC selected four developers to work on properties at Lents Town Center, including ours. More recently, the agency voted to move forward on three projects. Development of our current location was excluded from that decision (for now, anyway), as PDC has requested adjustments to the proposal. Since it’s currently the one-year anniversary of our having begun fence construction at our Lents location, it seems like a good opportunity to let everyone know where we stand, and what we’ll be looking at going forward.

It’s possible that real work will begin on the three approved projects about a year from now. What’s still unknown is whether or not the project intended for our lot will be approved in a timeframe that would allow it to catch up to that development schedule. If so, that would give us a hard deadline for our location on SE 91st. Our understanding is that there likely are only two properties at Lents Town Center that would work for us if we, and the neighborhood, wanted to extend our stay: our current location, and one nearby on SE 92nd. If neither of those options are feasible, we will be looking to relocate elsewhere in Portland.

Should that happen, what’s required?

Recently we shared with PDC what we termed our “needs/wants” list, a rough sense of the criteria necessary to house the herd. We’ll share that below, but first we want to describe how the next property search will be significantly different from the one that landed us in Lents. On our end, we will be making an effort to contact larger property-holders, such as Portland Parks and Recreation, or Portland Public Schools. In addition, we’ll potentially be getting some help identifying private property owners and developers who might have suitable land available for another temporary/interim stint somewhere.

What we won’t be doing is putting out a general, loose call for people to suggest property.

Rather, when the time comes we’ll be inviting neighborhoods who might be interested in hosting the herd for a couple of years to submit proposals. It will be up to people on the ground in their own neighborhoods to research land, talk to property owners, and gather community support, all within the context of our “needs/wants” criteria. Lents as a neighborhood had the advantage of PDC’s ability to offer its land for interim use. While that’s not something every neighborhood will be able to replicate, being presented with an opportunity was far more navigable for us than the alternative of researching every random piece of property someone in Portland though maybe might be a good match.

In essence and effect, we will be crowdsourcing part of our relocation effort if we have to move from Lents. We’ll be doing our best to identify large property-holders in Portland, but if you’ve seen a lot that you think looks good, it will be up to you, your neighbors, and perhaps your neighborhood association to do the legwork and the research and come to us with a workable proposal. Obviously, as you reach out to property owners in your neighborhood you can’t negotiate for us, but you’ll be able to gauge interest, especially if you’re working as a group. If all parties in an area—neighbors, property-owners, other stakeholders—all at least see and understand our “needs/wants” list and are interested in having a conversation about the possibilities, that will make it easier for everyone.

In the near term, our own focus will be on determining the likelihood of extending our stay at Lents Town Center. Nothing stated here should be taken as an intention or desire to clear out, but as a somewhat itinerant operation we are (and will continue to be) subject to development plans and schedules in whatever neighborhood is gracious enough to host us.

As such, while we’ll be working on our options in Lents we wanted our larger community of supporters across Portland to have a clear sense of what needs to happen should an extended stay there not be possible.

ETA: We need to reemphasize an important component of any potential relocation out of Lents Town Center should we not be able to remain there for a longer term. Should it come that, it will be logistically impossible for us to look into every potential location someone suggests to us.

It will be up to the residents of any given interested neighborhood to do the initial legwork and research on their own, using our “needs/wants” criteria as a guide, and to draft a specific proposal about how such a relocation could work for us.


  • Accessible water supply. Having had available water across the street in Buckman, and in the adjacent lot in Lents, it’s more clear than ever that this is a primary requirement. While we will be looking into rain-catching systems as well, there needs to be an on-site (or adjacent) source of potable water for the herd.
  • Appropriate zoning. As we learned during our relocation to Lents, any new potential location must be appropriately zoned. For example, industrially-zoned land permits “agricultural” use while some residentially-zoned land permits “open space”–both of which are options for us, as determined by the Bureau of Development Services.
  • Square footage no less than our current location. While we don’t hold out much hope we’ll ever again see the likes of the two square blocks we had in Buckman, experience so far in Lents suggests that anything less than our current square footage could become an issue for a herd of this size.
  • Easily and safely accessible to the community. Between the attached parking lot, empty lot to the south, and relatively-new streetscaping to the west, the public has had easy and safe access to our current Lents site without impeding pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk. Similar capacity is a must.
  • Neighborhood “eyes-on”. One of the clear advantages of our Lents location over our old Buckman location is that it has surrounding “eyes-on”, whether from residences to our west and north, the Fire station to the northeast,and the Masonic Lodge to the east. This arguably has been far superior to the ring of dead-by-6pm businesses that had surrounded us in Buckman.
  • Longer-term stability. By which is meant the sheer amount of time for which we will have use of the land. Whatever the eventual term of our stay at the current location, our next move should allow us to plan for a longer-term presence (e.g. 2-3 years), which will allow for a greater range of programs and activities in the community.
  • Transit accessibility. Both our old Buckman location and our current Lents Town Center location are well-served by public transit and bicycle accessibility. If only because none of the owners of the herd drive, but also for the purposes of serving the public, transit access is a must.
  • Centrally-located. Or, “as centrally-located as possible”. For example, it’s unlikely we’d be much interested in being further east than we are, or in considering far outer southwest. It’s doubtful we’ll ever again be able to locate as close-in as our old Buckman location, but “as centrally- located as possible” is the watchword. This allows for the sort of serendipitous discovery we had a lot of in Buckman and some of in Lents.


  • Garbage service. We haven’t had much of a need (yet?) for garbage service where we are, as we’ve been able to haul out our refuse ourselves but in the longer term establishing trash pickup is a consideration.
  • Electricity. While we have use of the electricity at the far end of the adjacent Farmers Market lot, which was adequate during much of our construction phase, having our own electrical supply on-site would not just be more convenient but allow for conveniences and other sundries such as lighting, and is an absolute requisite for the next item. Barring an electrical hookup, we would investigate solar alternatives.
  • Internet service. By which we don’t necessarily mean the infrastructure exists already on-site, but any new location preferably should be at an address at which Internet service is obtainable. (The primary usage here is for livestreaming the herd online, which would serve both publicity and security.)
  • Existing fencing/infrastructure. It would be useful if any new location had, for example, at least some existing fencing, if only to make relocation more efficient and cost-effective. Fencing that would need some work to make it suitable for our purposes would not be a deal-breaker. (Moving our existing fencing and the shelter makes for something of a chicken-or-the-egg problem.)
  • Ability to plant. Whether for landscaping or goat nourishment, the property owner should be okay with us doing some landscaping/planting. If a property were large enough, we’d be able to consider fencing off sections on a rotating basis.
  • Shade. One clear advantage of our Lents location over our Buckman one is the tree line. It’s especially beneficial during our rare stretches of 95-100ºF temperatures. If little or no natural shade is available, we would construct artificial shading around the property.

When to Visit and What to Expect

In the glory days of that first summer down on Belmont, the gate mostly was kept latched but unlocked during business hours, the herd’s original owner being directly across the street and able to keep watch during the day. Current ownership doesn’t live or work right across the street at Lents Town Center, so how does visiting work today?

We have scheduled gate hours on Saturdays and Sundays, at least from 11:00am to 2:00pm. During the summer, the Lents International Farmers Market operates right next door on Sundays from 10:00am to 3:00pm; that’s a good day to come see the herd since you can make more of a day out of it. Otherwise, it’s effectively random: if you happen upon us on-site and we aren’t busy with chores or construction, we’ll typically let you in to visit. We also accept pre-arranged visits by groups if we have a caretaker available to host. In the past, we’ve had local preschoolers, special needs adults, seniors, bike rides and tours, city staffers, legislative groups, and classes from a local photography camp.

What should you expect when you visit?

On the whole, we have three basic rules: Don’t run, don’t climb, and don’t go in the barn.

The latter rule exists primarily so that the herd has one place they can go to escape if they get overwhelmed or just want a break. The other two rules are a combined concern for your safety and herd comfort. In addition, as previously discussed, we ask that you not bring outside food for the goats. The sole exception to the “no feeding” rule is that you are welcome to pick flowers or pull leaves that grow inside our lot, provided you understand you could get a bit swarmed in the process.

Beyond those few general rules, there are some tips we like to offer.

We typically prefer that children not be left unattended to visit the goats. We aren’t set up to be a daycare, and our caretakers are not babysitters. We sometimes make exceptions if we’ve gotten to know the kids in question, especially if they are from the neighborhood, but that always will be at caretaker discretion; parents and other attending adults should assume that it’s their responsibility. In addition, the younger and closer to goat height a child is, the more attentive you should be. The herd is remarkably socialized and it’s very rare for any of them to use their horns on people intentionally. However, small children face-to-face with a goat can be an issue if the particular goat’s in a mood or is startled by something.

Caretakers generally will try to find a balance between being available for any questions you might have and staying out of your way to let you have your own experience of the herd. You are welcome to wander around, sit and chill, or hang back and watch as you please. Beyond the handful of rules and tips we’ve established for everyone’s well-being, and the understanding that the caretakers, in the end, are in charge, it’s not our place to define your visit.

Most of those rules and tips fall under a single overarching idea, which most visitors innately understand: you are guests of the goats, in their home. Just as you would be respectful when visiting another person’s home, so should you be respectful visiting the herd in theirs.

After the current herd ownership took over, there was a long stretch of months in Buckman during which visitors no longer were allowed inside, for insurance reasons. While we did our best to bring goats outside when folks came by, it never was quite the same. We can’t offer the nearly-unfettered access we did during the original summer, but it’s our distinct pleasure to once again bring together the two herds—our fourteen goats (and their one hen) and you—at our current home in Lents Town Center.

Branding the Herd

It’s an understandable question, asked not only by Lents residents. Having relocated to Lents Town Center, why are we still called The Belmont Goats?

Usually this question clearly is motivated by a natural curiosity. On occasion it carries a note of hostility, as if somehow we’re deliberately disrespecting our current hosts.

In truth, it’s mostly a matter of logistics, with a little bit of brand awareness thrown in.

Prior to moving to Lents, the closest the herd had to an official name was “Creative Woodworking NW Urban Goats”, used on the signs posted by the herd’s original owner around its original home in the Buckman neighborhood. There was some early usage of “Goatlandia” but eventually it became known mostly, and simply, as Urban Goats PDX. When the herd’s current ownership took over—before the herd had a new home, in Lents or otherwise—it left the Urban Goats PDX name with the original owner. At the time, there was a possibility that he would be return to hosting an urban herd of his own and we felt that for the sake of continuity and consistency he should be able to hold onto that name.

Since the mostly commonly used referent for these specific goats was SE Belmont Street (“oh, those goats on Belmont” or, indeed, “oh, the Belmont Goats”) it seemed simplest to derive their new name from that colloquial use. It also seemed to us that out of a similar concern for continuity and consistency, making the history of the herd into its brand would ensure that no matter where we ended up next, people would know who we were.

“Oh, these are those goats!”

Our move to Lents—indeed, to wherever we would have ended up after Buckman—never was conceived as a necessarily permanent move. We continue to debate the question of whether it would better serve the “goats in the neighborhood” mission to have a single permanent home or a series of semi-permanent homes every two to three years, affording different parts of Portland the opportunity to play host to what we’d come to refer to as the city’s “resident urban herd”. This debate likely will continue all the way up to whenever the time comes to make way for the development of our current Lents Town Center location, which has never been ours except under the terms of a temporary use permit which requires annual renewal.

What matters is that in the context of potentially moving every few years, the logistics of renaming the herd become ridiculous.

We’ve sometimes taken some grief for discussing this question in terms of “branding”, but it’s a legitimate concern. It’s also not without precedent. Hawthorne Chiropractic moved to Division but kept its name. Seven Corners Cycles left that intersection but kept theirs. “History” as “brand” is a thing people do.

We do try as much as possible to reference Lents when discussing the herd. Our own material—our website, our social media profiles—typically refers to “The Belmont Goats, now at Lents Town Center”. We participate in neighborhood events. We promote neighborhood activities through our social media channels. Whether or not local media covering the herd plays along with that isn’t something over which we have much control, but we will try more strongly to urge them to mention where the herd lives.

Our move to Lents hasn’t been anything other than successful. It was the first neighborhood to make a concerted effort to woo the herd to its area, and residents have only been welcoming and helpful since the day we began construction. Nothing we do is motivated by disrespect for the neighborhood, or ignorance of what it’s done for us.

The simple reality is that no one knows for how long Lents will be the herd’s home. Should the next move, whenever in the future that happens, be to another neighborhood in another part of Portland, no one knows for how long that will be its home, either. That potentially transient aspect of the herd’s “goats in the neighborhood” mission makes it vitally important that the herd be able to maintain its identity over time, and across the city.

It isn’t about disrespecting Buckman, Lents, or any neighborhood to host us in the future. It’s about celebrating the herd’s origins and history no matter where it lives while, as best we can, doing right by our host neighborhood—whoever that might be—for as long as we’re there.

Don’t Feed Our Goats

A publicly-accessible herd of urban goats comes with a fair number of challenges. There’s a balancing act to maintain between wanting the community to feel invested in the idea, because in many ways this is meant to be Portland’s herd, and the difficulties and potential dangers of having any members of the community feel entitled to certain behavior.

We are responsible for the well-being and welfare of fourteen goats (and one hen), and if an absolute guarantee of non-interference were the only concern, the herd would reside out of the city, on a private farm, away from prying eyes and hands.

That’s never been the mission.

Unfortunately, some who visit the herd–and to be clear, this is a small minority of folks–carry an incorrect assumption that goats can–and do–eat everything.

Goats certainly have an affinity to taste almost anything, and in many ways use their lips the way we might use our hands: to explore their environment. We have goats who will nibble at the hem of your skirt, the drawstring of your hoodie, or your hair. Goats do, in fact, eat blackberry bushes and some plants with remarkably thick, sharp leaves. Some goats like to lick metal and eat paper, and certain kinds of glue might seem tasty, but they are not actually eating anyone’s tin cans.

We suspect that somehow the myth that goats do eat everything became for some an assumption that therefore visitors can go ahead and feed them. This assumption has potential consequences ranging from the annoying to the dangerous.

It’s not solely a matter of the goats potentially being fed something they truly ought not eat (e.g. rhododendron) but the matter of our need to monitor the herd’s diet. Let alone the worry that can ensue upon walking in one day to find diarrhea everywhere, thus spending the day wondering if some of the goats are sick or if a visitor stopped by and fed them a bunch of apples.

Those folks will have gone on with their day having no idea that we’re fretting about the health of our herd. All they know is they happily spent a few minutes feeding livestock through a fence.

There’s also a question of common courtesy, and common sense.

It would be fair to assume that the folks who feed our goats at will don’t take bags of carrots to feed to animals at the Oregon Zoo, or wander the streets doling our jerky to the neighborhood dogs. Yet somehow that courtesy isn’t extended to our herd. Common sense is abandoned.

There have been any number of warnings and cautions posted along the fence line, both at the herd’s original home in Buckman and its current one in Lents. Some have been express injunctions, some a kind of stern finger-wagging. We’ve even tried to flip the caution tonally, by invoking most people’s natural inclination to treat animals fairly, rather than assuming that everyone needs a good talking-to. Rather than warn people of the dangers of bringing the herd food, we’ve tried to make it about helping to keep the herd happy by helping to keep it healthy.

Most recently, we’ve turned to a completely non-verbal “no feeding” sign, in the hopes that the familiar red-circle-with-line used across the world to indicate prohibited behavior would provide a widely-understood message.

Somehow, frustratingly, the occasional feedings persist.

It isn’t just about whether or not they can eat apples, or carrots, or kale, or the leaves you raked up from outside your apartment.

It isn’t just about the possibility that even if you’re feeding them something healthy, someone might follow your lead and bring them something unhealthy.

It’s about the fact these goats have owners who care for them, and we not only have but deserve the right to make decisions about them.

It’s about the fact that as much as The Belmont Goats are Portland’s resident urban herd–intended all along to be a community treasure and resource–they are not your animals. They are ours. Please afford us the courtesy of letting us take care of them as we continue to share them with you.