Parks throughout Mid and East Antrim have been awarded prestigious Green Flag Awards for cleanliness, safety and community involvement.
The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open, green spaces.
The winners included Carnfunnock Country Park, The People’s Park, Eden Allotment Gardens, Ecos Nature Park, Dixon Park, Diamond Jubilee Wood, Bashfordsland Wood and Oakfield Glen, Carrickfergus Mill Ponds, Shaftesbury Park and Marine Gardens.
A delegation from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council travelled to Bangor Castle to accept the awards.
Among them was Parks Supervisor Jackie Waide, who won the Green Flag Northern Ireland Employee of the Year award.
Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Cheryl Johnston, said: “We are so proud to be flying the Green Flag across so many of our Borough’s parks and open spaces.
“This is testament to the fantastic work of our parks team in ensuring our green spaces are among the best in Northern Ireland.
“As a Council, we are committed to protecting, enhancing and promoting Mid and East Antrim’s parks and green spaces as superb places to visit, exercise and enjoy events.
“I am also thrilled that Jackie Waide, Parks Supervisor, was presented with the ‘Employee of the Year’ award.
“This award was open to all staff across the whole of Northern Ireland so it is a great honour to be recognised at this level. It is wonderful to see hard working staff recognised for their good work and effort all year round.
“Holding a Green Flag Award brings with it a vast amount of prestige.
“It is also an excellent example of civic achievement and provides communities with a great sense of civic pride.
“Winning a Green Flag Award visibly demonstrates to the local community and Councillors that a site is being well managed for the benefit of the local community and local wildlife.
“The more Green Flag Awards a local authority has, the more it demonstrates best value for the Council and the local community.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved in this process, including the Green Flag Award Scheme, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and, of course, our hardworking staff, who maintain and manage our Parks and Open Spaces to such a high standard all year round.
“Finally, a big thank you to the local communities who enjoy our sites, get involved in our events and activities, and treat the sites with the respect they deserve.”
For the 2017/18 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw a continued increase in public parks, gardens, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the demanding standards.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also celebrates The Green Flag Community Award and The Green Heritage Award for sites which conserve, enhance and help people enjoy the heritage value of the site.
The Green Flag Awards are judged annually by green space experts, who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, ranging from horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.
Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme.
“Parks matter to our society; this year more than 37 million people throughout the UK will visit a park, this is five million more than voted in June’s General Election.
“The Green Flag Award is a sign of a well-managed, clean and safe park and with many people increasingly relying on their local park as a place to exercise, relax and have fun, quality green space has never been more important.
“Research shows that people will only visit a park if they perceive it to be clean and safe; the Green Flag Award is an easy way for the public to see at a glance that their park meets the highest standards.
“All the flags flying this year are a testament to the efforts of the hundreds of men and women, both staff and volunteers, who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”