NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In addition to keeping the water flowing, Metro Water Services is also required to maintain vegetation in portions of the city and that’s where a unique workforce comes in to help.
Not only is the Cumberland River Greenway a beautiful scenic route, it’s also home to a levee that serves as a barrier to nearby business.
Sonia Allman with Metro Water Services said this is an important piece to protect businesses on the other side of the river.
“This is protecting MetroCenter businesses from the Cumberland River. And it has to be inspected by Metro Water Services and the Corps. of Engineers,” said Allman.
Metro said it’s crucial the area surrounding the levee is well kept and that’s where a flock of 200 sheep come hopping in, excited to feast.
So how did they get here? What’s the backstory of all these sheep now calling the riverside home?
Turns out, the sheep actually have a name. They’re called the Chew Crew.
“Clearly, when we said to Metro Finance, we’d like to use animals to control the vegetation on the levee, we got a ‘no way,'” Allman said.
Seven years later, it’s a partnership that’s proven to be successful, according to Zach Richardson with the Chew Crew.
“It’s transformed tremendously,” Richardson said. “I mean I know it looks kind of hairy right now, but you got to imagine, trees over your head, shrubs, for three miles, and the majority of the site looks like this. We’ve very much got it under control.”
Not only are the sheep cost efficient, they’re great for the environment, explained Richardson.
“The sheep are an economical, environmentally friendly and socially engaging way to control the vegetation,” Richardson said.
From bridge to bridge, I-65 to Clarksville Highway, it’s about three miles the Chew Crew is responsible for, which serves as an alternative to Metro having to hire landscapers.
“I can’t compete with a zero-turn mower, or a tractor, but on areas that are too steep, too rocky, too overgrown,, or whatever reason other forms of landscape, sheep are a fantastic alternative,” Richardson said.
Metro Water Services said it’s a win for all.
“We are getting what we need accomplished by the targeted grazing, we’re saving money, and we’re actually paying them $71,000 a year instead of $197,000 and it’s socially engaging and not as risky and hazardous,” said Allman.
Along with the sheep, there are two dogs who also play an important role too, beginning with Dougie.
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“I would set everything I own on fire before I got rid of this dog,” said Richardson while referring to Dougie.
Dougie’s goal is to get around the sheep and move them in a certain direction. This is to help the Chew Crew stay on task.
Inside the flock, there’s Dolly. She often blends in, which works well to her advantage.
“The livestock guardian dog, think of it like their secret service, she’s with them 24/7. Her job is to ward off any threats, coyotes, bobcats, really any other dogs,” said Richardson.
It’s a full fledge system that seems to benefit everyone involved, even those just passing by on the greenway nearby.
“Economically it works well, environmentally it’s light on the land, they fertilize as they go. But most important to me, I think they are socially engaging,” said Richardson.
From kids, and families, to bachelorette party barges, all seem to be star-struck when it comes to the sheep.