THEY’VE put in the long hours of voluntary work on many a murky morning and dark drizzly evening and so it was particularly rewarding for members of the Bandon Tidy Towns Group to claim a bronze medal at this year’s National Tidy Town competition.
It was the group’s first medal success in the competition and it’s testament to the hours of voluntary work that they have undertaken to make Bandon bloom. And what’s even more remarkable is that the group is made up of just 15 members, all of whome take great pride in their volunteer work.
Catherine Fitzmaurice joined the group a number of years ago and she is now the chairperson.
‘I got involved when I first came to Bandon after seeing a poster looking for volunteers and I signed up. We are always looking for new members to join us and I think people assume it’s all about picking litter up but it’s much more than that,’ said Catherine Fitzmaurice.
‘We look for people with different types of skills and that can vary from anything from gardening skills to artistic skills and we want people with ideas for projects and we are open to any suggestions. We would also love a good mix of people from the town and outside. All are welcome to join and we are very keen to get younger people to join the group, especially for some of the more labour intensive work.’
Catherine is also keen to point out that people can even come once if they want to just to see what the group does and suggest any ideas that they think might work.
‘We welcome any input and if people want to join there’s no commitment to staying for long periods. We have an active website and social media pages and they can contact us through them.’
The group’s main priority is to make Bandon a better place to live in and to make it more attractive to both locals and visitors alike.
‘We need to crack how to entice people to join and hopefully winning the bronze medal can do just that. It’s probably much easier in small villages to rally people around than in bigger towns because maybe people assume it’s the council’s job to do.’
Funding comes in many strands for the group and as well as applying for grant funding for specific projects they also receive donations and sponsorship from local businesses in the town, as sometimes they are not always successful with grant applications.
‘The biggest amount of time is spent co-ordinating the various projects and applying for grants and coming up with ideas for each year ahead. We’ll do whatever we can and then we move on to the next project,’ added Catherine.
One of their biggest successes has been the MUGA area in the town, which incorporates the skate park, which has soared in popularity since it was opened over three years ago.
‘That was a very big project and we put in the initial application for funding and we secured part Leader funding and part Council funding grants for this along with sponsorships from some local businesses in the town.’
Other recent projects saw the group re-landscape Allen Square with the help of a landscaper and they also launched a Nature Trail in the town last year.
‘We’re working on a few big projects including cutting back shrubbery out the Clonakilty Road and work is about to commence soon on a footpath to connect with the Graham Norton Walk.’
Their most recent project saw the group undertake a Streetscape Paint Scheme Project on North Main Street in conjunction with Cork County Council.
They wanted to paint and brighten up this particular street as many of the buildings appeared drab and needed a good paint job. Having received a grant from Cork County Council toward the scheme, they also got Dulux on board to sponsor the paint.
‘We were hoping that the project would have commenced sooner but traffic management is the issue there and we are working closely with the council on how to implement this so we can begin cleaning the buildings.’
Another problem the group faced once they decided these buildings needed to be painted was finding out who actually owned the properties.
‘Some of the owners of the buildings are banks or receivers or they belong to landlords that don’t live in the town. There are two properties that we can’t tackle but hopefully down the road we can find out who owns them.’
Becoming a volunteer with the Bandon Tidy Towns Group does not require a ‘lifetime commitment’ according to Catherine.
‘The more people interested in helping the better for the town and every town has the same challenge in recruiting new members. It’s taken a long time to win a medal and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. It’s an accumulation of work down through the years,’ added Catherine.
See ‘Bandon Tidy Towns Group’ on Facebook for more information on becoming a volunteer or contact Catherine on 086-3689939.