Tidy Towns Putting Pride Of Place In Passage West
Writes Leo McMahon
Passage West paints a pretty picture right now thanks in no small way to the hard work and dedication work over the past 12 years of a small group of Tidy Towns volunteers.
Two of its members, chairperson John Daly and secretary Marcia D’Alton recently outlined to The Carrigdhoun Newspaper the success story so far and current projects.
The Tidy Towns (TT) group came about in 2009 they said, following the retirement of Cork County Council’s full time worker in the town Fergus O’Leary whose duties included picking up street litter. Unfortunately, he wasn’t replaced and litter wasn’t picked up for a about a year. However, there were always volunteers who did their bit for the town including Dan O’Connell and Michael Murphy who carried out litter picks on Sundays.
John and Marcia, along with Dominic Ryan (all three former town councillors) and Clive Murphy started to get involved. A public meeting was called in October 2009 at the Town Hall where it was agreed to set up a Tidy Towns group.
‘The council would come in and do work from time to time in response to requests from the then town council but upkeep of Passage West required a local voluntary input,’ said John who recalled how he got inspired to help set up Tidy Towns after a bus tour to Baltimore where he saw mostly women cleaning all the paths and planting areas and thought to himself, if they can do it, so can we.’
‘Litter picking was the main activity from day one’, said Marcia. ‘We then worked on a large but overgrown flower bed at Rockenham, the path to what was then EuroSpar (now Aldi) as well as removing hugely overgrown bushes from Toureen in order to open up views of the sea and it went from there.’
By 2010, a formal committee was in place. Along with John, Marcia, Dominic and Clive, the first volunteers also included Dan O’Connell, Anthony Howard, Mary O’Byrne, Saundra Farr, Catherine Hennessy, town councillor Michael Frick Murphy, Audrey O’Byrne, Mary Cadogan, Adre Vosloo and Peter MacMananon.
One of the first objectives, said Marcia, was to create an attractive entrance to the town. The Tidy Towns group created a large flower bed in the linear area of waste ground on the approach road from Rochestown. Under the direction of Audrey, volunteers planted the now much-admired area using a range of perennial, bee-friendly shrubs which was then unusual and well ahead of its time.
Solid clay and stone, said Marcia, along with the red brick surround, were removed from the original roundabout which was then enhanced by new planting and a lovely maritime sculpture by Carrigaline based visual artist Mick Wilkins.
The roundabout was re-clad with natural stone to give it a fresh look and along with the sign, a lovely first impression entering Passage West. Passage West entered the national Tidy Towns competition in 2010. ‘We got a really low mark which was a bit discouraging. We were lower than places we thought were less attractive than our town. However, in the following years we increased our marks significantly to the extent that one year, we got a special award as the town with the biggest increase in marks’, recalled Marcia.
Because the scope of the linear town stretching from Roberts Bridge to Alec Day Park, Glenbrook plus roads up the hills is too extensive to cover for a small group, Passage West TT decided to opt out of the national competition but has enjoyed success in Cork County Council’s Anti-Litter League, winning first place in 2019 in their category after working closely with St. Peter’s Community School, local traders, the estates and others.
All Tidy Towns groups get vital financial support from the council’s Community Contract scheme operated by Carrigaline Municipal District. One of the first areas in Passage West to benefit was Penny’s Dock where an area of quayside at the end of the greenway was levelled and resurfaced using Macrete, imprinted concrete.
Passage West TT was very fortunate to have the hard work and expertise of Tony Murphy, a man with a great knowledge of plants etc, who worked for seven years on the Community Employment (CE) scheme from 2012. When he was joined in 2015 by John, they became known as the ‘A Team’ and completed courses such as correct use of a defibrillator, a strimmer and spraying under licence.
Thanks mainly to funding from Passage West Town Council before its abolition as part of controversial local government reform in 2014, the Centre Block was significantly upgraded with a new Macrete surface, containers and repainting which has made it an attractive focal point. Although the cherry tree, about which locally based John Spillane wrote a much loved ballad, passed away from old age, its replacement is flourishing. The council will be further enhancing the area erecting a retractable canopy and additional planters later this year.
‘Biodiversity is a key element of the Tidy Towns effort. Focus on perennial and bee-friendly planting was there long before it became popular and now we’ve gone a step beyond that with our containers. We also asked the council’s area office to let us be in charge of spraying which we do responsibly and sparingly and only when absolutely necessary,’ said Marcia who also mentioned that the new Passage West-Monkstown Biodiversity Group started planting a community herb garden at Tom Fahy Park last year.
In addition to above mentioned projects and almost daily litter picking, Tidy Towns volunteers are kept very busy planting, weeding, watering and maintaining planters outside Marmullane Park, at the Centre Block, Brendan’s Butchers, Hugh Looney Signs and outside the Town Hall comprising Passage West Maritime Museum and Library.
Some of this wasn’t possible during the lockdown in 2020 so the group is very grateful to residents and traders who help out in their own time by watering, litter picking, sweeping and have continued to do so this year.
A major job being undertaken on the day we called, was removing weeds, especially creepers and litter from the shoreline railings on the Greenway at Patrick Murphy Park, Toureen.
Many visitors to Passage West are remarking on how much the town has improved and is looking so much more colourful, remarked John while Marcia said the strong and loyal core of business people is a massive boost and source of encouragement.
Eye-catching window boxes and hanging baskets to be seen on the Town Hall and other premises in the town centre and also along Fr. O’Flynn Park are supplied and maintained by a contractor on behalf of Passage West Business Association who work in partnership with Tidy Towns. The association is also involved with the council’s Painting Scheme which has given a bright new look to many premises in Strand Street etc.
A current project running since 2016 is enhancing the area near the Cross River Ferry terminal at Glenbrook.
‘Dashed flower pots that were impossible to maintain, were removed but there is also need to tackle overgrowth, replace the flagpoles and landscape the area,’ said John.
‘The project includes improving the presentation of directional signage,’ said Marcia, who added that it’s also planned to relocate and make as its centrepiece the beautiful emigration sculpture by Mick Wilkins commissioned by Glenbrook Amenity Association which is currently hard to see behind the bus shelter nearby.
The group is looking forward to finally getting involved with enhancing the long awaited new roundabout due to be constructed between Harbour Heights and the soccer club this year and they hope that this will pave the way for the council to install new banner gateway signposting at the town entrance.
John and Marcia acknowledged the fantastic work of fellow Tidy Towns members and stressed that the success of the group is the combined effort and enthusiasm of all who volunteers who come out to give a hand. They also acknowledged the wonderful work of residents in the various streets and estates such as Beach Road, Dan Desmond Villas and Wesleyan Place and individuals who litter pick in their own time to support Tidy Towns. One volunteer regularly collects litter beyond the town boundary from Roberts Bridge to Hop Island while former town councillor Neil ‘Brocky’ O’Sullivan has painted colourful murals at Rockenham Lane and at the bricked entrance to the railway tunnel off Beach Road. Where possible, Tidy Towns works in partnership with groups carrying out smaller local projects.
These are positive times for Passage West, a town once much maligned for its dereliction and decay. Recent years have witnessed new businesses, a new sewerage scheme and excellent new road surface and footpaths, Marmullane Park, a maritime museum, a new pontoon, and improvements to the Greenway. Tidy Towns has played its part in making the town look better and more attractive for visitors.
‘Pride in where I live is the reason why I’m in Tidy Towns’, said Marcia and this was echoed by John, adding: ‘I love from where I came (the city northside) to where I live because we have so much in Passage by the sea that we can walk and admire that many would love to have.’
Core members of Tidy Towns, we’re told, include John Daly, Cllr Marcia D’Alton, Grainne Crowley, Mary Cadogan, Sinead Coakley, Jill Mooney, Karl Murphy, Claire O’Mahony, Mary O’Byrne, Audrey O’Byrne, Alex Daly, Ethel D’Alton-Bateman and Carole Renier.
Not wishing to leave any names out, John and Marcia said they specially wished to thank past and present volunteers, not within the group, without whom Passage West TT couldn’t achieve what it does.
They also acknowledged the support and goodwill since 2009 of the county council, Carrigaline MD, Passage West Post Office, Passage West Business Association and other traders, scheme workers, contractors and landscapers, the parish, schools, Gaisce award volunteers and clubs.
Volunteers of all ages are always most welcome every Wednesday from 7pm and Saturday from 9.30am and the usual meeting place is the Water Tower at Cork Road. Information is on the Passage West Tidy Towns Facebook page but you can also TEXT 085-7333852.
There’s a job for everyone, no special skills are necessary but fresh air, good exercise, making new friends and job satisfaction are guaranteed.