What is Tidy Times About?

The following article appeared in the ‘Tidy Times’ column of the Letterkenny Leader at the start of August.

Hello and welcome to the new regular feature, which I will be writing on behalf of Letterkenny Tidy Towns. Each month I’ll cover some of the things which the Tidy Towns volunteers do, and how you can help out.

This month I will try to answer the question “What exactly do Letterkenny Tidy Towns do?” You may be surprised at the breadth of our initiatives – it’s not just about litter – and I will go into more detail on some of these in future editions of the Letterkenny Leader.

The Letterkenny Tidy Towns team is a group of volunteers whose goal is to greatly improve our sense of community, quality of people’s lives and our local environment.

We believe environmental improvement is a vital part of economic generation. We work hard to make Letterkenny look great – a place where people want to live and visit. So how do we go about it?

Firstly, we represent Letterkenny in the national Tidy Towns Competition. This is not happening this year, but the efforts involved in preparing the town for the competition are all about improving the local environment, and will thus continue.

In a normal year, there would be regular Sunday litter picks, including the ‘adopt a road’ scheme. These are on hold for now, but people all over the town are taking it upon themselves to clean up their own areas, and we help to facilitate this by providing litter grabbers, High Vis jackets, gloves, bags and so on, as well as getting involved ourselves, of course. The Council, with help from Glenard Plant, do a great job of keeping the town clean but they can’t be everywhere, so every piece of litter lifted by a member of the public helps to keep our town beautiful.

{NOTE – since the article went to press, we did get the Sunday litter picks going again, and were delighted by the number of new volunteers who came along (a 7-fold increase of participants compared to this time last year! Thanks so much to all of you). The litter picks are now wound down for the winter and for the level 5 lockdown, however several of us will continue to do individual litter picks, and bags, gloves etc can be provided to anyone else who wishes to clean their local area.}

A fine turn out for a recent Sunday litter pick

The Tidy Towns Committee helps to co-ordinate the work done by the Community Employment Scheme, typically involving weeding, hedge trimming, planting flowerbeds and placing flower boxes.

The Tidy Towns committee is working to encourage biodiversity. See next month’s article for more on this!

The Tidy Towns committee liaises with residents associations, community groups such as Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter, local businesses and the council to highlight the work that needs to be done and to determine the best way to do it. A part of this is the annual Cleaner Community Campaign, where Tidy Towns works with residents associations to facilitate local clean-ups, and local environmental initiatives.

Flower boxes are placed around the town by Tidy Towns

As you will have gathered from the above, some of our ‘normal’ work has been put on hold due to the strange times we’re living in, but we are still very much involved in smaller scale projects, and in encouraging members of the public to get going with their own projects. As an added incentive, we are currently running a garden competition with three categories – small garden, large garden and wildlife encouraging garden. For more details, see our website or our Facebook page.

There are several other ongoing projects, such as cleaning up the Sentry Hill area and looking into improving the murals in Lower Main Street, along with informal litter picks being done by individuals.

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Weekly Litter Picks

For the last few weeks, our Sunday litter picks have been back up and running. It’s difficult to predict what will happen in future as we go through the various levels of Covid 19 restrictions, but as long as we are able to do so, we will carry on meeting up at 10.30am at Market Square each week. The number of volunteers tends to range between 4 and 10. Neil, the coordinator, then designates areas for people to take care of, and typically it will be 2 people working a particular area, with 1 on each side of the road. So even in the strictest of lockdown conditions, we hope to be able to keep going, but we shall have to see what the future brings!

Neil organises the volunteers

But enough of this Covid talk, what do the Sunday volunteers get out of it? Annalisa joined us shortly after the Sunday picks restarted, and has become a regular, focusing mostly on Ballyraine and Kiltoy. “I first joined the Letterkenny Tidy Town’s Sunday Litter Pick about six weeks ago after I spotted one of their volunteers out one day and it made me think, what can I do to help? I enjoy walking about the town but it’s always disappointing at times to see so much litter.” Annalisa mentioned a certain energy drink which shall remain nameless, and how she wished it would give the drinkers the energy to find a bin. Couldn’t have put it better myself!

“So, for the hour of your time when you join the Sunday litter picks, you get a great feeling of accomplishment knowing you’re helping the environment and contributing to the community we are fortunate enough to be a part of. I would recommend anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer to just do it! Everyone is lovely, there’s no pressure, and if it’s one hour a year or one hour a week you’re able to give, every little bit helps.”

A typical scene which greets the volunteers. This lot was picked on a short stretch of Lisnennan Hill.

Neil, the coordinator, has been delighted with the growing attendance over the last few weeks, and has been busy planning areas to be covered. In short, there are more areas needing to be cleaned than we currently have volunteers, but we do the best we can with the people available to us, and in the longer term we hope to get estate residents to adopt their own neighbourhoods. Meantime, the areas being covered include Ballyraine, Kiltoy, Lisnennan, Mountain Top, Gortlee, Glencar, Old Town and of course the town centre. Most of these areas are places which the council’s contractors, Glenard Plant, can’t get to very often due to time/resource cconstraints. I hope you have noticed improvements in at least some of these areas, and if you’re looking at an area and thinking ‘hmm that could do with a bit of clean’, then please do get involved. All are welcome!

We also realise that there may be people who would very much like to get involved, but for whom Sunday morning just doesn’t work – maybe you have other commitments or maybe you’d just rather be relaxing on a Sunday morning! We totally understand, and several of our committee members are in total agreement with you. If that sounds like you, but you would still like to get involved, then we can offer help with bags, gloves, high vis jackets and litter grabbers. Either call in on Neil at the Market Square on a Sunday morning, get your stuff and be on your way, or you can get in touch with Gerard McCormick at Magees Pharmacy. Full details are on our website – https://www.letterkennytidytowns.com/volunteer, or message us on our Facebook page.

The above article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on Oct 1st 2020.

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