Environment Minister Alex Attwood said he was shocked at the scale of litter in a local beauty spot as he took part in the Big Spring Clean campaign.
The birds were singing and the white stars of the wild garlic were blossoming — but scattered among the flowers in Colin Glen Forest Park was a layer of litter.
Among the debris marring the scenic glen, which runs through the heart of Mr Attwood’s constituency, were a pile of catalogues that had been dumped, packaging from a fridge, a bicycle wheel and bags of domestic litter such as conditioner bottles and razors.
The clean-up campaign is a joint venture between the Belfast Telegraph, Tidy Northern Ireland and DOE Rethink Waste — aimed at inspiring 25,000 people to roll up their sleeves and tidy up their local area this month. Last year’s clean-up attracted 13,000 volunteers who collected more than 120 tonnes of rubbish in one week.
Mr Attwood said: “Many of our most picturesque and beautiful areas are spoiled by litter and waste. My aim is make Northern Ireland a greener and a cleaner place that we can be really proud to show off to tourists and other visitors.
“I fully support initiatives like Big Spring Clean, which can make such a significant contribution to making our environment more attractive, and I am enjoying getting involved today.
“The Clean Neighbourhood Act, which came into force this month, will support councils in preventing littering in their areas. What I and my department are about is making Northern Ireland a better place to live, work and invest. Activities that take place during Big Spring Clean will make a substantial contribution to that effort.”
Mr Attwood said much of the litter poses a danger, such as broken glass. “The forest park is very rich in bird life and people are throwing all sorts of debris around — if it were picked up it could cause injury,” he said.
“I was shocked at the casual disposal of all sorts of rubbish here, there and everywhere.”
Paul Bennett, warden of Colin Glen Forest Park, said: “This forest park is one of the jewels of the Belfast Hills. We have over 3.5 miles of paths running through the park which are wheelchair and pram-friendly and we are proud to welcome visitors all year round. I commend efforts like the clean-up taking place today, which helps ensure a consistently positive experience for all our visitors.”
get involved now!
The Big Spring Clean needs your help. For information on how to join our ‘green army’ during the month-long event this April, go to www.bigspring|cleanni.org. Alternatively you can talk to your local council or ring Tidy Northern Ireland on 028 9073 6920. The Big Spring Clean now boasts 13,600 volunteers who have gathered 122 tonnes of rubbish.