Athlone Canal Heritage Committee eager to promote canal awareness

Shay Hamilton gives an informative talk on the Athlone canal to interested children

Shay Hamilton gives an informative talk on the Athlone canal to interested children

The Athlone Canal Heritage Committee was formed in March 2018 with the objective to engage in activities that will not only improve the appearance, biodiversity, water quality and environmental standing of the Athlone canal but also promote awareness of the built, cultural, natural and water heritage of the waterway.

Local community leader Shay Hamilton saw the need for a group such as this to be established and with the help of the Waters and Communities Office and Community Water Officer for Westmeath, Mr. Basil Mannion, Shay set about establishing the committee.

A committee, along the lines of a 'Canal Trust' was formed which consists of local residents, local business people, community activists and representatives of local angling clubs. Four elected officers have been confirmed on the management board and a constitution has been put in place. The committee has planned a series of projects and is currently seeking funding from appropriate agencies with this in mind.

Over the years the canal has fallen into disrepair being subject to widespread dumping of litter and waste. Two low span bridges were also built on the canal and waste pipes now traverse sections of the canal. There have been several groups who have undertaken remedial works on stretches of the canal,

The most recent, the Athlone Works Committee (2014-2016 ), comprising local councillors and tidy town members, with financial support from Westmeath County Council, completed a series of enhancement projects on a stretch of the Canal.

The Athlone Canal Heritage Committee is now hoping to build on this recent work tapping into the link between the local community and the canal and the river Shannon. The committee has planned a series of projects and is currently seeking funding from appropriate agencies. With this in mind, the committee has set itself the task of arranging a public awareness event with the Athlone canal at its core, to coincide with the World Canal Conference being held in Athlone in September.

Other projects being lined up include native tree/wildflower meadow planting along the canal banks and a concerted effort to tackle the Japanese Knotweed Invasive species problem along the Canal.

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