Catchment News

River Al, Athlone: clean up and regeneration by Willow Park community group

| in Stories

The River Al is a tributary of the mighty River Shannon and on its journey the Al flows through the Willow Park Housing Estate in Athlone, County Westmeath. The local community in Willow Park have come together in recent months to organise several river clean-ups along the Al. The aim of these clean ups is twofold, firstly to tidy up the area and increase the amenity value of the river for the local community, and secondly to raise awareness of the wildlife and heritage to be found around Willow Park  and in the wider Athlone area.  Members of the ‘Willow Park Community Group’, ‘Friends of the River Al’ and Basil Mannion, Community Water Officer with the Waters and Communities Office have been joined each Saturday for the clean ups by volunteers from amongst the local community.

Unfortunately, the River Al in the area has been subject to heavy littering and illegal dumping, as is often the case along watercourses in urban areas. This Willow Park Community initiative aims to raise awareness of this problem and reduce occurrences, eventually eliminating fly-tipping and dumping all together from the area, it hoped this will be encouraged through increased local pride and community stewardship of the River Al by the local community and  stakeholders. Basil Mannion is providing support and assistance to the Willow Park residents in their efforts and believes there are opportunities for this river clean up to provide a model that can be delivered in other locations for revitalising a river in an urban setting.

The Willow Park Community Group will hold awareness and educational days to share knowledge and learnings and to promote achievements, thereby further developing a sense of local pride and responsibility to protect the Al River for the benefit of wildlife and as an amenity for the local community. Funding for this initiative is being sought through the Anti-Dumping and littering Fund Second Phase, from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The Waters and Communities Office will support and promote this collaborative approach with all local stakeholders working together to help restore and revitalise the River Al. The stakeholders are the Willow Park Community Group, Willow Park residents, Westmeath County Council, Councillor Tom Farrell, Inland Fisheries Ireland, OPW, EPA Catchments unit, Irish Wildlife Trust, Athlone Municipal Council, local business people, local angling groups and Athlone Institute of Technology.

By working together we can bring about positive and worthwhile change to protect and improve our local waters for the benefit of all.

Basil Mannion, Community Water Officer, The Waters and Communities Office

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our waterbodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office.

LAWCO

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

DECLG

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.