Hand out? Hand up!
The Three Mile Water River Conservation and Angling Association received a micro-grant of nearly £1000 from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, allowing the group to provide enhanced protection for, and monitoring of bats along the river, through the building of new bat boxes. Their presence is welcomed, as bats are an indicator that the river itself is in good health.
Beyond the boxes, the Three Mile group are an important link between the local ecology and the surrounding community; in addition to helping protect the river, the group has been instrumental in encouraging people of all ages, abilities and levels of fitness to participate in the conservation of the environment on their doorstep. They have made a conscious effort to get the whole community involved (particularly those at risk of social exclusion - including school leavers, graduates, the elderly, as well as the long-term unemployed) and in many cases have been able to provide valuable employability skills.
What has the knock-on effect been? Suddenly those who were largely disengaged from community life are working not only to improve the biodiversity of the river corridor, but also to encourage active participation and community pride in the wider area. Significantly, the Three Mile group has also been approached to share its expertise in ecological monitoring with other groups across Northern Ireland, and has developed a good working relationship with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency - not bad for a group of volunteers!