A NEW team of hard-working volunteers has formed with one mission in mind — to clean up Dumfries town centre.
Over the past month the Dumfries Initiative group has been taking to the streets once a week with brooms, paintbrushes, trowels and bin bags in an attempt to make the High Street and surrounding area more presentable.
High Street resident and ex-council leader John Dowson started-up the project, which he said is “about doing things, not talking about them”.
He added the idea came to him after sifting through comments about the state of the town posted on a community Facebook group he runs called The Echo.
“There’s been lots of comments about the state of the town – the dirt, the litter – that it’s just generally run-down. Quite a while ago a lady complained on The Echo about the condition of the benches. In particular, she was taking about the fact that all the varnish had come off, they looked terrible, she’d been sitting on one and she just felt it was a mess. So I wrote to the council and took a photograph and said I was willing to do a bit of voluntary work,” he said.
Dumfries and Galloway Council provided Mr Dowson with the necessary tools to execute the refurbishments — and within two weeks all 25 benches in the town centre had been sanded, painted and varnished.
“I just did that on my own but out of that a couple of people saw me doing it and said they’d like to get involved,” he added.
“Since painting the benches, we’ve started doing weeding and general cleaning up in the town centre. Once a week we go out for a few hours, pick a spot and try and clean up – that’s basically what we do. “It’s about trying to encourage people to take pride in our town — so let’s get out there ourselves and clean it up.”
Mr Dowson stressed the group are currently “volunteering as individuals”. However, he has registered Dumfries Initiative as a non-for-profit company and is seeking the council’s help in getting public liability insurance, which he said “might allow us to take on more complex projects in the future”.
The initiative’s work comes ahead of the publication of a new report by the Planning Advisory Service on the town centre vision for Dumfries over the next decade, commissioned by the council at a cost of £50,000.
Mr Dowson predicted the report will “only tell us what already know – which is that the town needs cleaning up”. He added: “We’re getting on with it.”
Asked if he hopes the group’s cleanup efforts will help the council in its bid for city status, Mr Dowson said he’s “not worried either way”.
He continued: “We either want to be a great town or a great city and the way we get to either is simply by people taking more pride in their town and looking after it. I’m not really worried if we’re a town or city, and I don’t want to sit round and spend the next six months talking about if we should be a town or a city. We want to go out and do things.”
Dumfries Initiative meets every Wednesday from 2 pm to 4 pm. To get involved call John Dowson on 07523315548.