Eight Point Gain for Castleisland Tidy Towns Committee

See the point total from both 2015 and 2016. Click on the image to enlarge.
See the point total from both 2015 and 2016. Click on the image to enlarge.

Castleisland and its irrepressible Tidy Towns working group and its growing off-shoots gained a fine, eight points in total over last year’s adjudication.

While that’s heartening in itself, so too is the fact that there were gains in all but one of the eight categories of the competition. And there was no point loss in any category. See the chart (left) for the full rundown.

Fair play to the adjudicator, who called here on June 24th, for noting the many improvements and the strides ahead made by the committee even over the past twelve months.

Clearly a devotee of the Con Houlihan style, the adjudicator refers to ‘Castle Island’ throughout the report and doesn’t put a foot wrong in calling out all that’s good about the town and its immediate environs.

There is no shying away either from areas where improvements may be brought about or places littered during the visit.

Also noted was the infestation of Japanese Knotweed which is becoming ever more apparent along the river-walk in recent years.

However, it’s on the positives the report was clearly based as the extra points awarded will testify. The gist of the report becomes apparent in the opening paragraphs.

Like all such reports there are inconsistencies here and there that may make you stop and think. But they usually move area by area and you’ll work out where they are as you read on.

The Eye of the Clock:  The view of Castleisland's Main Street from The Market House clock tower on Wednesday morning. ©Photograph: John Reidy
A view of Castleisland’s Main Street from The Market House clock tower. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Community Involvement & Planning / Rannpháirtíocht an Phobail & Pleanáil:

Castle Island is a very busy work town in North Kerry and you work hard in conjunction with many relevant bodies to improve it. You have put great effort in this adjudication year alone – 42 meetings and events attended by Castle Island, and that does not include any litter picking or informal meetings. This is great effort for a voluntary group who do not get paid!

Your adjudicator was delighted to read your long-term plan. This was a very thorough document and for each proposed action it had included the status, a comment and also highlighted who was responsible for each action. In this layout it is very easy to follow and should be a useful strategic document for you.

Your map was very useful and refreshing to have a hand drawn one that was good. Maybe add the industrial park area onto this please? It was also very good to read that you have groups in all residential areas of the town. This is a good approach and seems to be working well for you. You work closely with all relevant bodies and schools – most of whom have already gained their green flags.

As volunteers you are exceptionally hard working and focused in your efforts. You cannot all be thanked individually, and no doubt it can be hard to keep your spirits up, but well done on your efforts.

The Crown Hotel – one of the buildings which looked ‘particularly fine’ on adjudication day in June. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Built Environment and Streetscape / An Timpeallacht Thógtha agus Sráid-dreacha:

The centre of Castle Island consists of a great wide main street typical of a well-designed market town. Buildings along here looked particularly fine which is testament to the many that were painted this year. This included: The Crown Hotel, Market House and Hartnett’s. In particular your eye is drawn down the main street to the fantastic facade of O’Connor & Sons Department Store with its matching chimney stacks. The lovely painting here has highlighted the detail in the plasterwork . What a pity that this premises is now closed. It is suggested that the community may be put a large bright window display in place here. Many properties have included the upper floors in their painting schemes which is to be commended. This really enhances the whole image of the streetscape.

You have some lovely amenities around Castle Island. The athletics club is a great facility in the community. The rugby club grounds are very well managed also and there is a nice wooden fence as you approach it. The stone pier at the sign at the entrance to the rugby club should be enhanced.

The Garda station is a striking, brave new design that sits well. The Church was very nicely presented and opposite the Family Resource Centre also looked well.

SuperValu and its car park nearby all looked good. St.Steven’s burial ground was admired – well done on having the foresight to restore this. It is recommended that you direct tourists down to enjoy this lovely heritage pocket in Castle Island . Information on the heritage trail was read and it is great to see that you are promoting this and that public signs were available for this.

In your entry form you talk of the long-term effort and poor result you achieve from trying to contact the owners of derelict properties. Do persevere with this long-term action as even having contact with one owner can make a big difference. On the Main Street a number of properties had boarded windows and is suggested that the wood covering the glass is repainted where possible. The newly replaced hoarding of dark metal was so good your adjudicator hardly noticed it!

Both the community centre and college looked well. The former was clean and busy during adjudication. There were many lovely trees in the grounds of the latter. Perhaps the centre could have some nice shrubs planted here?

The River Walk was being well used on adjudication day despite the heavy showers. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Landscaping and Open Spaces / Tírdhreachú agus Spásanna Oscailte:

The tree planting along the Main street adds so much to the streetscape and is to be commended. It was great to see the riverside walkways been used by so many despite the heavy showers on adjudication day.

Landscaping was very good in most places. Planters at St Stephen Park were freshly painted and reflected nicely the colours of the grotto. It is suggested that some of the plants are replaced as they are not in a good way.

Well done on amending your mowing regime at the river so grass was allowed to grow at the river’s edge. This is important and we are encouraging groups to allow grass to grow just like that. This allows for wildlife to move and for pollinators to benefit from nectar in the flowers that form. The national pollinator plan outlines many flowers and plants and shrubs that you could incorporate into your planting schemes that not only look good but also help wildlife. You have commissioned a pollinator plan for the community that is to be ready for the next adjudication year and it will be eagerly read by your adjudicator. The unique picnic table by the riverbank is very durable. There was some fresh litter here. There was some lovely planting of perennials under name stones. You also had many nicely planted planters, though it was noticed that a couple were placed on the pedestrian traffic island in the middle of the main street, reducing the amount of room available for pedestrians.

The raised beds as you come into Castleisland by the industrial park have been nicely planted and were well tended.

Thanks to those that planted trees in the community college as part of the Planet Savers project. Are these native? Overall it is suggested that one you have your biodiversity plan you cross reference this to develop a long-term landscaping plan for Castleisland.

The beauty of nature in all its fleeting glory as a duck and her 13 strong family paddle away near Herbert Bridge on Castleisland's Killarney Road. ©Photograph: John Reidy
The beauty of nature in all its fleeting glory as a duck and her 13 strong family paddle away near Herbert Bridge on Castleisland’s Killarney Road. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities / Fiadhúlra, Gnáthóga agus Taitneamhachtaí Nádúrtha:

The riverside walk was a lovely amenity to have near the centre of a busy market town. You have suggested introducing mallard to the area. This wild species is not in decline nor is it under conservation threat so there is no need to artificially enhance its population. Perhaps you should adopt a policy to enhance local habitat so it’s suitable for all wild ducks such as moorhens, coots and mallards to enjoy?

Well done in cutting back on your use of weed killer and indeed you have plans to phase this out completely. This is important and stops the degradation of our natural environment. Many Tidy Towns groups have been reprimanded in the past for being overzealous with weed killer and damaging our sensitive wildlife habitats. Already in your community garden you do not use any so well done.

Whilst it was not mentioned in your entry form it is assumed that you are aware of the problem you have in many parts of Castle Island with Japanese knotweed. This is an alien invasive species that out competes native wildlife and can also cause structural damage. Further details are available from the Council’s Biodiversity Officer or from www.invasivespeciesireland.com.

Sustainable Waste and Resource Management / Bainistiú Acmhainní agus Dramhaíola Inbhuanaithe:

Your adjudicator enjoyed a visit to the ReVamp furniture showrooms at Crageen to see the revamped furniture available for sale. Gosh there was some lovely stuff here. This is a great way to stop waste going into landfill and helps you gain marks in this category of the competition. You support local markets and indeed you are the ‘best market town in Kerry’. Your ‘Wild Atlantic Woman’ fashion outfit made of recycled materials was admired and was very clever. How do you link this to landscaping. Do you use your own compost in your landscaping schemes or use? Your ‘planet savers’ only purchase FSc certified wood and paper products. Can you roll this out across you community – schools, community groups etc?

Don't mention it. A bag of litter left at one of the town's bins at Dave Geaney's Corner. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Don’t mention it. A bag of litter left at one of the town’s bins at Dave Geaney’s Corner. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Tidiness and Litter Control / Slachtmhaireacht agus Rialú Bruscair:

Again you are very proactive and have drafted a litter strategy for Castleisland. What seems to be missing though from this is identification of the main types of litter and details of specific actions to combat this. For example, if chewing gum was an issue on school routes – should a gum litter promotion be held in the school? It was good to see dog waste bags available in the dispensers. The external wooden noticeboard at the boundary wall of SuperValu should be removed. Behind the athletic centre there is a sign requesting that dogs are kept on a lead that was in a poor condition this should be replaced. The park bench nearby facing the traffic lights was damaged. As mentioned there was also some fresh litter at the picnic table by the river walkway behind the athletic club. There was a very large collections of tyres at the rear of the club. Your adjudicator questions this as most should be recycled and disposed of so why were they being stockpiled here?

The sewage vent pipe in the grounds of the community college was quite rusty and needs some attention. Some of the directional signs could be cleaned on side roads, such as the one for the community college. Maybe consider painting utility boxes in the long term? The Island Centre was one of a number of premises noted with Christmas lights fixed on their external walls. These should be removed outside of the festive season and did not look appropriate.

Arriving from the Knockananlig road you see a nicely painted street pump. Perhaps the adjacent corrugated iron gates to be painted at the same time, preferably in a darker colour? Watch for posts with no signs on them such as the one at the entrance to Riverside Drive. Most of the boundary walls here look good but one needs attention.

Residential Streets & Housing Areas / Sráideanna Cónaithe & Ceantair Tithíochta:

You have representatives in nearly all areas of Castleisland so this may explain why homes and estates looked well. Your adjudicator was intrigued and enjoyed exploring the design of the pedestrian access routes from the rear road around St Stephen’s Park. The majority of homes here were freshly painted and looked well. They had tended over the grotto area nicely and the freshly painted grey planters really looked good here.

At the entrance to Cahereen Heights there are too many signs. There were four signs with the name of the estate as well as two more commercial signs.

You say that residents groups can purchase plants from Tidy Towns funds. It is suggested that you recommend certain plants for them that might help benefit our bees such as those recommended under the National pollination plan.

Clonough Bridge as you never saw it before as part of its flower bedecked and manicured approach road surroundings on the Limerick Road. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Clonough Bridge as part of its flower bedecked and manicured approach road surroundings on the Limerick Road. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes / Bóithre Isteach, Sráideanna & Lánaí:

The newest volunteers working in Castleisland are from the Limerick Road and have been doing great work. On the approach roads the name signs were clean and bright and perennials were nicely planted at the base of each. It really made the passer-by realise that they had arrived at somewhere special.

Wooden fences on field boundaries as you arrive from Brosna could be painted and mended.

Rhyno commercial premises had a lot of signage and very industrial-styled railings Simply painting these a dark colour could make a great difference taking away the industrial look here.

Concluding Remarks:

Castleisland Tidy Towns has been going strong for 25 years and amazingly many of the volunteers that set it up are still involved – gold stars for them for their sustained work. In a busy town, there will always be things to do but you plan and get many involved to help. In the words of your TY student, Saoirse Casey, you are striving to make Castleisland a better place to work and live in. Well done.

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