Cleaning up the unsightly Mall River

De Facto

CONTROVERSY RUMBLES ON The Mall River in Westport pictured in summer sunshine last Friday afternoon.

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

More and more we see the need for the reinstatement of town councils. Westport has suffered immensely since they were abolished by a Fine Gael government led by a Mayo man! From traffic to the convent and the courthouse to the Carrowbeg River, all have been negatively affected because there is no such entity as Westport Town Council.
The Mall is the centrepiece of Westport. It has inspired writers and poets. “Westport of the Welcomes, with its tree-lined Malls and waterfalls …”. Many towns are envious of Westport having such a showcase in the town centre.
The river was originally constructed away from its original course (under the Post Office) to create the beautiful Mall vista. Cobblestone features on the riverbed are also evident across from McGreevy’s where the wall was opened to allow horse drawn carts into the river. The horse could drink and the cart could be easily turned around to exit the river. Trees grace the Mall and provide welcome shelter for the birds (and a ‘resting place’ for weary lovers in the olden days.)

At present, the pavement around the Mall is being upgraded, which adds another layer of enhancement to an already beautiful feature in our town. Recently, the lights around the Mall were upgraded and create a wonderful vista in the heart of the town. The changing colour scheme of the lighting is also a wonderful addition. These are all ‘positives’ associated with work by Mayo County Council.
The Mall acts as a municipal and residential welcome to visitors. It needs to look its best, rather than its current shabby state. Looking from the Fairgreen down to the Mall one sees the unsightly growth of weeds masquerading as biodiversity in the Carrowbeg River below the Cosiwear Bridge. For a town that prides itself on its various successes in Tidy Towns, Entente Florale and The Best Place to Live in Ireland the sight is absolutely terrible.
We have heard various claims – it aids the flow of the river, adds to biodiversity (often used when those in power don’t want to do anything!), helps the fish population or acts as a little oasis for ducks. There is no basis for any of this.
Some even say Storm Ophelia ‘created’ it in 2017. Not so, flesh and blood did the honours way back. It doesn’t really matter who put in the ‘gravel island’ or whatever it can be called, and it matters less when it went in, what’s important now is to set a date to have it removed. There may have been good intentions when it was installed but right now, it’s a complete mess, looks terrible and drags down the appearance of the town in a major way.

Who is responsible?
We know that the fisheries board accepts responsible for all aspects of fish stock in the Carrowbeg yet claims that the council is responsible for any work on the said bank. Trout anglers know that it negatively affects spawning in the river. The council and the fisheries board need to sit around a table sooner rather than later.
Silly things happen when people refuse to take appropriate action. We all remember the serious flooding in the river some years ago, much of which could have been avoided if the river sluice gates at the old church below Hotel Westport had been opened.
Common sense is what needs to prevail with this gravel bank. Whatever purpose it was installed to serve is no longer valid. To claim it has a biodiversity value misses the point. It needs to be removed, preferably without any fanfare, just for the good of our lovely town.   
If only we had a Westport Town Council back again; the issue could be put on the agenda, debated and acted upon. Many people feel Westport has seriously lost out because of the abolition of town councils. It has removed power and the ability to take action from the area. A local council gives people a greater sense of ownership and participation in the running of their town. In the meantime, weeds continue to grow in the Carrowbeg River. We are left with a serious eyesore in the centre of town.