The recent visit of RTE's Nationwide team to Carrigaline opened many local people eyes to the great work being done by their very committed Tidy Towns Committee. I recently visited Carrigaline to talk to some of the people involved and to hear first hand what is involved in being a member of a Tidy Towns committee in one of our larger towns here in County Cork.
As I sat down for a chat with Liam O'Connor, Maura Allen, Betty O'Riordan, Claire O'Mullane and Geraldine O'Hara the magnitude of their commitment soon became evident. Being involved with this tidy towns group demands complete dedication and loyalty to the other members of the group and it was obvious to me that a great bond existed between all the members of the team . The other members of this committee include John Crowley who was a founder of the group away back in 1974 and who is still very involved as treasurer as is Howard Crowley and long time member Barry Cogan. Howard and Barry are joint PRO's . David Collins (Collins Supervalu) is also part of the Committee.
This was not just a case of of a group arranging a few litter picks and watering some hanging baskets and flower beds. It was indeed a long term total commitment to their local community and it is definitely making Carrigaline a better place for all living and working there as well as those who visit the town.
Liam O'Connor who is the group's Chairman explained that while the committee meet formally every month to deal with the business on hand, 'we are in contact almost on a daily basis as we tackle issues as they arise'. 'We are in contact regularly also with Cork County Council who not only assist us greatly with financial support but they also provide advice and practical help on the ground'. 'We also got great help down the years from SECAD our local development company who provided advice and financial support with various projects we undertook in the town' Liam told me.
I was delighted to meet up again with Betty O Riordan another dedicated member of the team who explained that the members of the committee undertake a walk around the town every January to find out what tasks need to done. 'We identify items that might need painting, planting or improving and these items are put on the list for the year'. ' 'In fact we have become multi skilled and experts in DIY painting weeding and planting and anything else that needs to be done' Betty said.
Betty explained 'Its full steam ahead then in March in preparation for the Tidy Town Judges visit which can be early in June, 'Its all hands on deck, and this demands total commitment from all our volunteers a few times a week to get the town ready and looking its best' .
'We were particularly worried about derelict buildings' Maura told me. 'On the main street we painted the old discount store and put in fake windows and we also painted a vacant building on Mill Lane'. 'Guard O'Neills House on Church Hill was also improved greatly with assistance from Carrigaline Men's Shed 'Maura said.
Other new items this year included a Hanging Basket project on the main street. 'The traders were great- they paid for the hanging baskets and we put them up and looked after them' The committee also provided new street furniture on Main Street which included Tiered Planters, New Waste Bins and Cycle Racks. The Bridge was also greatly enhanced in conjunction with Cork County Council. A new 'Welcome Sign' was also erected.
I put it to the group that surely the committee cannot do all this work on its own? 'We could not operate without the full support of the community' Liam explained. 'We get great help from Residents groups, businesses, the Men's Shed group, all of the sporting organisations and a team of volunteers'. 'We are also very lucky to have such dedicated Tús and Community Employment Scheme Worker available to us' We also get great help from both the Stonewall Garden Centre and The Pavilion Garden Centre as well as Dairygold. The committee also operate an 'Adopt a Road ' project in which various clubs and residents groups and Macra adopt an area and look after it. The local sports clubs are all very helpful including Rugby ,Soccer, Hurling and Football,Tennis as well as the Camogie club.
The committee have also developed some excellent projects around the Town and they are very grateful to those who have supported them financially Cork County Council SECAD local business, the general public and in particular their main sponsor Collins Supervalu. They have been responsible for a series of Gardens including A Suibhneas (Peaceful) Garden, A Wildlife Garden, A Sail Garden and their latest 1916 Commemorative Garden.
The committee are also very keen to recognise and reward to efforts of individuals and businesses each year. To this end they organise an awards night each year to present awards such as the Best Business Award, The Best Estate Award, Best Private Garden and many other community awards.
Working with schools is a major part of the work of Carrigaline Tidy Towns.
Carrigaline Tidy Towns believe in passing on the mantle to the younger generation and are very keen to help the schoolchildren to develope positive attitudes to the environment.
Maura told me that 'we very much appreciate the support of the teachers and staff of the schools for their continued support to Tidy Towns.' Maura said the Tidy Towns has been involved with many projects with the schools both primary and secondary.
All the schools including the Gaelscoil, the Girls National School on Ballea Road as well as Scoil Mhuire BNS are helped with their Green Flag projects. The Tidy Towns and the schools also worked with Dr. Mary Stack Environmental Awareness Officer Cork County Council on projects such as Chewing Gum Awareness, stop food waste Day, Walk to school day. The Tidy Towns group also distributed apple trees and bulbs to all the schools. Transition year students also undertook a waste assessment survey with local industry. The Work of the schools is also celebrated as part of the annual Tidy Towns Awards.
Carrigaline Tidy towns have to date won three Bronze and one silver medal in the Supervalu Tidy Towns Awards and we wish them well this year. They have also won many awards in the Muintir na Tire Pride in our Community Competition. Well done to all involved and keep up the great work.
Community Development Worker
Cork County Muintir na Tire