Three County Wicklow towns achieved the coveted Gold Medal award in this year’s national Tidy Towns Awards.
Arklow, Bray and Wicklow finished near the top at national level in their respective size categories. Greystones secured a Silver Medal in this year’s competition.
Arklow achieved highest in County Wicklow with a score of 349 points, just six points behind the national winner which was Ennis in County Clare. Wicklow Town with 346 points had the second highest score while Grangecon with 339 points took third place in the County.
Cllr Shay Cullen, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council paid tribute to all 28 towns from Wicklow who competed in the competition and congratulated Arklow on achieving the top place in the county. He commented: “Tidy Towns play a key role in caring for our towns, ensuring the community has an input into their development. Volunteer activity has been strong over the last two years and it is good to see this work recognised in the competition”.
The adjudicator for Arklow noted that despite the pandemic, Arklow Tidy Towns had achieved significant improvements. Some of the work singled out for praise included maintaining historic buildings with revitalising of town centre shop fronts. The ‘Town of Gardens’ project with its focus on sustainable practice was also praised.
Mr Frank Curran, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, paid tribute to the participating towns, congratulating them on the best ever results achieved and noted that “Tidy Town committees work closely with Wicklow County Council though the Municipal Districts and other services to develop projects of benefit to all inhabitants of our towns” adding that their work helps to build more sustainable and vibrant communities.
The national competition also has a set of special themed awards and 2021 was the most successful year for Wicklow groups with three towns being successful in achieving these.
Delgany won the national Waters and Community award for its programme of citizen science, awareness and protection for the Three Trouts River. Detailed monitoring of the whole river catchment has been undertaken with local schools and youth involved in studying life in the river. The community is playing an active role in improving water quality and removing impediments to fish in the river.
Wicklow Town won the regional award for engagement of younger people in its work, ensuring local youth and schools had opportunities to undertake project work and actively participate in Tidy Towns.
Blessington won a regional award for its COVID-19 response with the group using its volunteer capacity and strong network of contacts to quickly adapt to a programme of helping out the elderly and more vulnerable in society when COVID restrictions were in place.
Tidy Towns groups across the county scored well for their approaches to tackling litter with marks achieved demonstrating their success. This mirrors success by both Arklow and Bray which scored well when judged in the IBAL league over the last year.
Strong scores were achieved in Community, Planning and Involvement by many Wicklow towns where structured plans are helping to develop towns and enhance town centres. Tidy Towns groups reach out to wider audiences engaging other key stakeholders including schools, Men’s Sheds, the business community and local sports clubs among others.
Another notable positive in marks awarded to Wicklow communities was their performance under Nature and Biodiversity. Actions for pollinators were widely referenced in reports with strong links into the All-Ireland National Pollinator Plan. The Swift Project to raise awareness on endangered swifts and provide nesting sites was a common project to many towns.
Sustainability is a newer area for marks and one in which Wicklow towns are now actively engaged. A strong focus on tree planting featured and Wicklow, Laragh and Blessington were commended for their work on energy through the Sustainable Energy Communities’ programme.
A focus on communal gardening and food waste prevention featured in several towns, with opportunities to promote repair also featuring.
All 28 towns that participated in this year’s Tidy Towns competition are commended for their hard work and commitment.