Athlone has been praised for its commitment to the conservation of local wildlife and habitats, as the town picked up its first ever bronze award in this year's Tidy Towns competition.
With an impressive 13-point leap from last year's results, Athlone was awarded a total of 294 points by adjudicators, who praised the committee for their work in relation to landscaping, litter control, innovative ways of minimising waste, and wildlife initiatives.
They were particularly impressed by the 'bat house' project along the Shannon banks nature trail walk, as well as a study which is underway to establish if there are badgers at the No. 1 Battery at Ranelagh - two initiatives on which the judges requested to be updated in 2017.
The report was also very complimentary about the town's approach roads, well-maintained residential areas, and the landscaping of open spaces, with particular praise for the new boat sculpture at the Cornamaddy roundabout, the boxed hedging at the Castle and the N55 roundabout, the 1916 garden of remembrance at Burgess Park, and the cannon feature at the Crescent junction.
Gerry Johnson of Athlone Tidy Towns told the Advertiser he was delighted with Athlone's increase on last year's result, and the fact that the town had earned a Bronze Award.
"We got an increase in marks in all eight categories. It's a huge mark for us, and the first time Athlone has got bronze recognition," said Mr Johnson.
"It was a very thorough audit. The town did well in terms of the built environment, including the castle, art gallery, civic centre and plaza. We were also quite strong on wildlife and habitat, and the adjudicator was particularly interested in the bat boxes."
He thanked the local business community, schools, Athlone Municipal District, St Hilda's, Waterways Ireland, and all those who had contributed to the Tidy Towns effort this year. In addition he paid tribute to all the local residents associations, which had also been complimented in the adjudicator's report.
Acknowledging it was "a work in progress", Mr Johnson said there was still more work to do, particularly in tidying up neglected buildings.
"We need to work on painting premises that have been neglected - a lot of work has been done in Connaught Street and Pearse Street and we are hoping that is contagious in a way - if one does it, others will keep up."
Ballinahown emerged the county winner with a total mark of 319 points. The full reports are available to view on www.tidytowns.ie