Antisocial behaviour including drinking, littering and urinating in public is making the Inver River Path a no-go zone, says a local resident.
The route, which runs below the Harbour Highway and over a bridge before exiting at the former Eagle Bar, was a popular shortcut with locals walking through the town.
However, the man, who does not wish to be named, says that the situation has now got so bad that the route is being avoided by some people who fear for their safety, particularly women, the elderly and those with young children.
“The situation is getting out of control,” the concerned resident told the Times.
“I have seen groups of alcoholics sitting there drinking and then flinging their bottles into the river.
“Myself and other people have also had to walk past people urinating in public, including a drunk woman squatting down on the grass verge. That area smells like a toilet.
“Recently I was coming that way and I saw a man lying on the grass with people around him who said they couldn’t find a pulse.
“The ambulance was rung and when it arrived the paramedics discovered that he was only pretending. He got up and wandered off, drunk. I was so angry and sickened at what this town has come to, there could have been a genuine emergency.”
The local man says that the situation has deteriorated in recent years, with younger people consuming alcohol and other substances at the site.
“I have seen empty legal high packets hung on trees like decorations, and blister packets of prescription drugs like tramadol and co-codamol,” he revealed.
“I have also found tinfoil and scissors, which I believe could be for some kind of drug use. As well as that there are trolleys, bottles of urine and they have even ripped out some of the concrete statues along the path and thrown them into the river.”
The local man says that some people are now choosing to avoid the area, amid safety concerns.
“People are being intimidated out of the area,” he continued.
“It is quite isolated and I know a couple of women who don’t go down there anymore. The alcoholics also congregate in big groups which would be intimidating to older people. I took my young son down there a few weeks ago and a drunk man pushed past us, talking to himself.
“It’s beyond the realms of madness for this to happen and for no one to care. I grew up enjoying the river and I want my kids to be able to do that as well,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Craigyhill resident Marina Johnston told the Times that she felt the state of the town centre path undermined efforts to regenerate Larne.
“I was recently coming back from the Latharna Creative Collective event, which was a great day, and thought that would be the quickest way to be home,” she recalled.
“The stench along that path was terrible. It smelled like a toilet. There was dog faeces, empty bottles and a lot of rubbish, it was disgusting.
“I had come from seeing the nice, creative side of Larne and walking back was a complete contrast. I would like to see regular litter patrols in the area by the council, or other initiatives. The Latharna Creative Collective are promoting the good things about the town and that area is really dirty.
“The people who are urinating and littering and drinking are not taking much pride in the town. We need to start educating people from a young age to instil that pride. If we don’t look after the town the whole of Larne will become a rubbish tip,” she concluded.
A police spokesperson said the PSNI had not received complaints of anti-social behaviour on the Inver River path, but urged anyone with concerns to phone them on 101.
“Police have the power to confiscate alcohol from individuals under the age of 18. For those aged 18 and over we can seize alcohol from them if they are in company of persons under 18 and we suspect that they are intending to supply alcohol to them,” she stated.
“Police enforce council bye-laws and report offenders to MEA council for appropriate action. Police take street drinking very seriously and are continuing to patrol any identified hot-spots for this activity and encourage reporting by the community.” To provide information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
A council spokesperson said its environmental and cleansing staff had undertaken three site inspections of the area.
“On Thursday, May 19 the Inver River Path (appeared) to be clear of litter and foul smells and there was no evidence of vandalism. A cleaning crew was also sent on Friday 20 and again on Monday May 23 to check for further litter, acting accordingly. The area will continue to be monitored regularly.”