Paul Harte pointing to a litter blackspot along the Town River.

Time to clean up unsightly river

AMENITY wise, the Castlebar to Turlough greenway is a gem.

Regretfully, some (if not much) of the sparkle is being destroyed for walkers due to the the amount of trash which lines the banks and almost every snag point in the adjoining river, writes Tom Shiel.

Footballs, plastic bags, plastic cups, plastic bottles, glass bottles - there seems to be rubbish everywhere.

It's hard on the eye and dispiriting on the spirit.

Last week, Paul Harte, a very environmentally minded member of the central Mayo community, took me for a walk along a mid-section of the greenway.

Pointing to yet another deposit of trash on the northern bank just beyond Ballyneggin, Paul declared: 'It's so disappointing. This is a beautiful amenity enjoyed by hundreds every day but it's tarnished by litter not just in one spot but at every bend.

'It's right along the river. Over a six-kilometre stretch eastwards from Castlebar this is exactly what you see.

'It's beautiful rolling countryside with fine mature trees and a plenitude of wildlife. But the amount of litter is sinful. It's a blot on the lovely landscape.'

Despite environmental regulations that protect the quality of such streams, the garbage problem in the river is an ongoing one.

There have been cleanups over the years to remove old bikes and shopping trollies, fuel containers, even couches and mattresses, but the goal of a totally pristine waterway has never been fully achieved.

Paul Harte doesn't believe that all the lighter garbage such as plastic bottles and plastic bags is deliberately tossed into the river.

Mostly, he believes, they are transported from the town area and the upper reaches of the river at Lough Lannagh by stormwater runoff.

For instance, Storm Doris some weeks ago lefty a nasty river legacy in its wake.

At the rear of the Church of the Holy Rosary, near Castlebar town centre, one of a number of trees felled by the high winds still blocks the river, causing a buildup of rubbish such as cans and bottles.

In rural stretches of the waterway, bends and reeds are snagging debris.

Paul Harte suggests an organised drive - 'clean stream teams' - to get rid of the eyesores.

As part of an organised cleanup, lasting one day or several days, Paul suggests that skilled canoeists be asked to help out by dislodging items of garbage trapped along the banks.

Due to the depth of the river, especially in winter and spring, he says, it would not be safe to allow ordinary members of the public to take on this role.

Once dislodged, the trash could be removed from the water by teams of workers further downstream.

Paul Harte is considering organising a signed petition to demand action. 'If they (powers that be) don't heed my voice then I will collect other voices.

'If we don't act, who will?' he asks. 'Somebody has to sort this out now. We can't leave this to our children. We must leave the world in a better place.'