A community action group in Willow Park, Athlone, is helping tackle waste, litter and pollution in and around the River Al in County Westmeath.
In 2017, the group commenced the task of tackling the problem of waste and litter pollution and diffuse urban pollution on the River Al flowing through the housing estate. During this time, the voluntary group achieved some commendable results. This included organising multiple river clean-up days, being awarded grant funding under the Anti-Dumping Initiative, and hosting an excellent river awareness event in May, 2018.
At a recent river awareness event, the Waters and Communities Office collaborated with the group and friends of the Al River to celebrate all that is good with the river and look at ways of bringing the river and community closer together.
Guest speakers on the day included Basil Mannion, Community Water Officer for Offaly, Westmeath and Laois, Ricky Whelan of Birdwatch Ireland/Irish Wildlife Trust, and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI ) officers Michael Fitzsimons and Pat McDonnell.
Basil Mannion spoke to the gathering about how the Al River could be brought back into community focus within the estate, and also about the increased efforts which are being undertaken across all sectors to improve community interaction nationally with our natural waters, with the overall objective of improving our river, lake, canal and stream water quality.
Ricky Whelan informed the gathering of river bird activities along our natural waterways, including the Al River, and described the national swift surveys which he is involved in currently.
The Waters and Communities Office engaged the expertise of IFI’s Michael Fitzsimons and Pat McDonnell, who superbly led a walk and talk along the Al River and enabled children and adults alike to discover new information and stories and spot amazing wildlife on their doorstep. The nature walk was a fun-filled activity and helped all to learn about and appreciate the wide variety of precious wildlife that the Al River is home to.
The day’s activities also included the opportunity for participants to observe a kick-sampling demonstration in the river, which helped to assess the quality of the water and to discover the types of invertebrates which inhabit it. A wide variety of living creatures were found, which is testament to the great clean-up work that the group are engaged in.
The Waters and Communities Office would like to thank all who attended the talk and river walk, and would also like to express gratitude to the Willow Park Committee for their help and support in coordinating the event.