Tips from the top
Attractive communities come in all shapes and sizes, but the formula for making them flourish always includes a little creative vision, a lot of hard, dirty work, and generous amounts of public support. Since 2002, the Columbus, Ohio-based non-profit group America in Bloom (AIB) has been recognizing communities that have combined those elements into outstanding beautification programs. Cities and counties of all sizes participate in the competition that judges them in eight categories: floral displays, tidiness, landscaped areas, urban forestry, heritage preservation, community involvement, environmental effort, and turf and groundcover.
AIB judges visit the communities and rank them relative to others of similar size. The judges create a final report for each jurisdiction, and every fall, AIB hosts an educational symposium and awards ceremony to recognize the top achievers.
Following are some past winners’ efforts to design beautiful places. For more information about AIB and how to enter the competition, visit the group’s Web site, www.americainbloom.org.
Allegan, Mich., holds an annual garden contest with more than 10 categories and presents the awards at a community dinner.
Lynden, Wash., plants flowers in red, white and blue throughout the community along with American flags to create a cohesive color scheme.
In Bemidji, Minn., businesses and residents adopt planters downtown. Master gardeners help guide plant selection and maintenance. As needed, perennials in the beds are divided and moved to other public areas.
The Modesto, Calif., garden club installed a floral clock, a video of which is featured continuously on the city’s Web site at www.ci.modesto.ca.us/clock.
Oberlin, Ohio, sponsors Pride Day, an annual cleanup event for residents to plant flowers, clean and socialize.
Buffalo, Minn., holds Buffalo Days, during which scout troops collect trash in the right-of-ways and in city parks.
Bartlett, Tenn., has an Adopt-a-Park program for community groups to take care of local parks and organize volunteer maintenance events.
Des Moines, Iowa, organized a litter pick-up day during an Iowa Cubs baseball game to educate the public on the value of litter control. Individuals were picked to collect litter in the ballpark and win free “Cub dollars,” which are good at the park’s concessions stands.
Lewes, Del., housing areas that have adopted a no-lawn policy are beautifully planted and maintained and serve as examples in the community.
Camp Hill, Pa.’s landscape at its municipal building is planted and maintained by a dedicated resident.
Dixon, Ill., holds an annual Petunia Festival over the July 4 weekend that attracts more than 40,000 visitors. The festival has made the city a destination point, earning it the title of Official Petunia Capital of Illinois.
Most of the Reston, Va., gas stations have floral displays.
Akron, Ohio, limits sound barrier walls and encourages landscaping with plants instead to obtain the same sound-mitigating effect without the financial cost.
The Lockerly Arboretum in Frankfort, Ind., displays examples of various trees and describes their importance.
Wheatridge, Colo.’s, rebate program refunds residents 25 percent of a tree purchase price and gives an additional 25 percent discount at participating nurseries.
Modesto, Calif., worked with the Greater Modesto Tree Foundation to restore and reforest native trees in one of the city’s major riverside parks. Every child born in the city that year had a tree planted for her or him. The project was designated Trees for Tots, and the parents participated in planting the trees.
The Lavonia, Ga., Historical Preservation Committee and the Downtown Development Authority have worked with the University of Georgia School of Design to illustrate how businesses originally looked. The goal is to assure that future renovations are faithful to the original design.
Goshen, N.Y., purchased an abandoned monastery and plans to turn it into a community park and recreation center.
The Beltrami County, Minn., Historical Society offers a “History in a Trunk” program that takes artifacts and lessons to classrooms for history studies.
The Glen Ellyn, Ill., Historical Society has created a self-guided walking tour featuring 46 houses built between 1840 and 1902.
Belleville, Mich., volunteer groups work with the Downtown Development Authority to help beautify the city and make the public more aware of its rich history.
More than 50 volunteers in Logan, Ohio, donate more than 6,000 hours of labor to keep the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center open.
The mayor of Quincy, Mass., hosts a community cook-out for volunteers in appreciation of their support of the “Cleaner, Greener Quincy” clean up.
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., saves energy and protects the viewshed of a local observatory with a “Dark Night Sky” policy that restricts excessive landscape lighting and street lights in residential areas.
Bemidji, Minn.’s Refuse Department publishes the “Garbage Gazette.” Curbside recycling is free, and trash pickup costs only $7 a month for a 65-gallon can.
Akron, Ohio, runs an experimental thermal plant that disposes of tires and woodchips and produces energy for the downtown area.
Chicago’s environmental center has information about environmentally friendly activities for commercial and private properties, including solar energy and rooftop gardens to reduce heating and cooling requirements.
Turf and Groundcover
Allegan, Mich., has encouraged its large corporations to make landscaped lawns and gardens a top priority.
Camp Hill, Pa., creates compost for top-dressing the town athletic fields.
Bartlett, Tenn., has adopted a “Property Maintenance Code” to help avoid urban blight, maintain property values, and enhance the public, health, safety and welfare of residents.
Des Moines, Iowa, planted wildflowers on vacant lots. Maintenance was reduced, and color was introduced to an area that might otherwise appear lost and blighted.
M.J. Gilhooley is the public relations representative for Columbus, Ohio-based America in Bloom.