A NEW educational 'hub' on the banks of the Callan River in Armagh is expected to be up and running in time for the new school year in September.
The facility, which will be sited at the old Callan Bridge, is due to be in place by the middle of March before being fitted out for use later in the year.
It is being provided as just one of a number of initiatives which are being rolled out by the Friends of the Callan River.
And the group is being able to press ahead with such developments after confirmation of European Union funding.
It is expected that the projects in the pipeline at present will total in excess of €20,000, with the aim being to educate people about the importance of the River Callan and its wildlife.
The environmental conservation, which is based in Armagh, is working to restore and reclaim the Callan River. The funding has been pledged from the CatchmentCARE ‘Community Incentive Scheme’, a project supported by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme. The initiative aims to support communities in takinginnovative approaches to looking after and caring for their local river systems.
The project, which will run this year, will see a variety of projects supported.
In addition to the educational 'hub', the projects include an education programme being delivered in two local schools, Mount St Catherine’s Primary and Armstrong Primary, by an expert environmental educator.
Funding will also cover the cost of educational equipment which members of the group will use to help the local community learn about the river and water quality.
An Information board will also be designed and erected on site to highlight the wildlife that inhabits the river and how all can look after the Callan for future generations.
Friends of the Callan was founded just under a year ago and the committed volunteers have carried out numerous litter picks in and around the river, while trained members undertake water sampling and forward results to the Rivers Agency.
Chair of the Group, Sean Vallely, welcomed the funding.
He said: "The Committee has a number of objectives in relation to the upkeep and protection of Armagh’s greatest natural asset. Those objectives will be pursued in the medium to long term, but it was felt that the most pressing matter was to ensure the group obtained a base from where we could engage with local schools and the local community to aid our objective.
"We would hope that our initial educational engagement will lead to other schools and community groups becoming involved in our project.
"We are very grateful to CatchmentCare, especially Andrew Griggs and Tom Woods, as well as Charlie Agnew of Rivers Agency for their initial help and guidance.
"The group has been overwhelmed by the amount of goodwill shown by the local community and businesses. While probably not possible to name them all, we would like to especially thank JF McKenna Ltd, NWP in Keady and Killeen Hardware, for all their support and practical help.
"We hope the hub will be in place by mid-March and fitted out by September as the schools are returning so we can get the programmes up and running. In the meantime we hope to get a number of tree planting activities underway soon."