It used to be one of west Belfast’s worst eyesores — but Colin Glen Forest Park has now won a Green Flag award three years in a row.
It’s all thanks to the hard work of people like the volunteers who gathered yesterday as part of the Belfast Telegraph’s Big Spring Clean campaign.
Around 100 litter-pick events, involving a green army of thousands, have been organised, running until April 17 as part of Big Spring Clean week, a joint effort with Tidy Northern Ireland and DOE Rethink Waste.
Colin Glen Forest Park was once home to a landfill and was so badly blighted with litter that visitors couldn’t walk through it, but a major drive saw some 150,000 tonnes of rubbish removed — equivalent to the weight of 15 aeroplanes.
Even though the park is now a beautiful urban oasis for wildlife, the flytippers keep showing up — and yesterday a group of 30 volunteers from DOE’s Environmental Policy Division and Rethink Waste team collected a considerable haul, including a sofa, carpets, tyres, rusted metal, full cans of beer, burnt bits of plastic, bottles, shoes, glass, a pipette, bags of rubbish, shoes, screwdrivers, DVDs, crisp packets and large scraps of metal found in the river.
Lori Hartman, environmental education co-ordinator at Colin Glen, said it was a “shame” that park was left in such a state.
“Colin Glen is an urban park which is sandwiched between a lot of estates, with lots of traffic around it.
“There used to be a landfill site at the top of the park and it has a history of being a dumping ground, so it's still in a lot of people's memories as a place to drop rubbish.
“There are also no bins in the park — it's sad but if we put bins here then people set them on fire.
“The forest park could look really beautiful at this time of year and it's a shame that it has come to be such a mess.”
Paul Bennett, who has been working as the education ranger at the Colin Glen Forest Park for more than 15 years, said: “We have found rubbish dumped beside the main road and on inspection we found it came from places as far away as Glengormley and Hillsborough as well as from the local area.
“We get a lot of tyres because we have to pay for them to be taken away.
“This project will make a difference. Because of the cuts everything gets cut back.”
Owen Lyttle from DOE's Rethink Waste said: “The rubbish here comes from two sources — there's normal public litter, people who just drop things, and then there's litter that blows out of vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Translink staff pulled on their rubber gloves at the weekend to clear up the litter around Larne Railway Station.
They gathered more than 30 bags of rubbish, including everything from a supermarket trolley and baby buggy parts to broken umbrellas and drinks cans.
Translink environmental officer Andy Bate said the litter-pick |was part of the organisation’s ‘Go |Eco’ campaign.
“This latest clean-up in Larne reflects efforts across the entire bus and rail network to keep facilities clean and attractive for both passengers and colleagues to enjoy,” he said.
“Both our TIDY Translink Awards and Translink Ulster in Bloom Competition reward employees who make that extra effort to improve the appearance of their local station.”
It’s not too late to sign up to the Big Spring Clean — just visit the website at www.tidynorthernireland.org/big-spring-clean.