Communities in Bloom

 

Did You Know... National Communities in Bloom judges paid a visit to Athabasca in July for an evaluation tour to see how well we are maintaining our status as a “5 Blooms” community.

 

  
Communities in Bloom judges Diane Clasen and Hugh Skinner capture some memories of the Athabasca University Academic and Research Center (ARC) and the Old Brick School in Athabasca on July 20.

Athabasca Communities in Bloom 2012


When Communities in Bloom (CIB) judges Diane Clasen and Hugh Skinner visited Athabasca on July 19 and 20 their purpose was to tour the town to assess how well the community has been living up to its prestigious “5 Blooms” designation, first earned in 2005.

CIB is a recognized and respected program where communities can compete with others in the same population category provincially, nationally or internationally, subject to certain criteria. The evaluation process is comprehensive and takes into account eight well defined categories, including Tidiness, Environmental Action, Heritage Conservation, Urban Forestry, Landscape, Turf and Groundcovers, Floral Displays and Community Involvement.

Athabasca competed provincially in 2001 in the 1,001 – 3,000 population category, earning a bloom rating of four blooms out of five and receiving special recognition for Community Involvement.

The town competed nationally in 2005 winning in the 2,001 – 3,000 category, earning a rating of five blooms and was recognized for Community Involvement as a Town of Volunteers.

Communities can also choose to participate in a non-competitive category either to learn about the program or, if they are past provincial participants or national finalists, to maintain their previous bloom rating.

Athabasca was evaluated in both 2008 and 2009 to maintain its five bloom rating. In 2008 the town received special mention for the Green Grad sponsored by Edwin Parr Composite School where the event saved a significant amount of money and donated it to World Vision. In 2009, special mention was given for Athabasca’s beautiful hanging baskets.

 

Judges return for 2012 evaluation

This past July, the CIB judges were again here for the evaluation process.

While local CIB volunteers and supporters await the results of the evaluation, residents can rest assured that the community was presented well by members of the Athabasca CIB committee and other volunteers who contributed to various aspects of the judges’ tour.

Assisted by members of the committee, volunteer coordinator Ida Edwards arranged the event and organized the tour agenda. Ida accompanied the judges throughout the tour. Other volunteers participated at various times and locations providing insightful information and making presentations to highlight local programs and initiatives that support the CIB philosophy.

Ida believes there is great value in maintaining a relationship with the national CIB organization and in using the evaluation criteria as a guide to help draw out the best in the people and programs of the community.

“For me, it is a labour of love. I totally believe in Communities in Bloom,” she says. “Athabasca is going to grow. People are attracted to the region and they see our town as a possible home. Communities in Bloom really offers something of value to enhance the appeal. It is a structure that is recognizable and it brings pride and cooperation from various groups.”

 

Athabasca on display 24/7

Between the positioning of the town at the intersection of highways and its proximity to summer villages and lakes, the community is becoming more widely noticed. Provincial groups and organizations are looking at Athabasca as an appealing place to hold meetings and events, and companies seeking a suitable location to set up shop are giving the town some serious consideration.

“We will have to get used to more familiarization tours as companies looking to relocate or expand come to check us out,” advises Ida. “Athabasca is on display 24/7. We are attracting attention.”

She notes that initiatives encouraged by CIB provide strong support for this sort of exposure and the related community development that it requires. After all, Athabasca is in competition with other communities in the province who may be trying to attract the same companies, businesses, provincial events, tourists and new residents. Every community is looking for an advantage and CIB can be the key for Athabasca.

“We want people to visit our town and move here and Communities in Bloom is all about economic development and effectively showcasing our ability to sustain an active and healthy lifestyle.”

 

Community-wide support and participation encouraged

Ida seeks to inspire others to take up the cause. She is active in her personal efforts to help beautify the community and in her public efforts to encourage municipalities and organizations to provide support for community initiatives and programs. That support can involve direct funding or in-kind resources and labour.

Support can also include the development of cooperative agreements between organizations to promote sustainability in the community.

“Agreements are very important,” says Ida. “It’s about being able to grow and sustain it. If we have structure in place, then we can handle the growth we know is coming. Our Town of Athabasca Sustainability Plan and Municipal Development Plan do a lot for our community in setting guidelines and directions for where we are going.”

 

Town resources are limited, residents can help

Ida acknowledges that the Town of Athabasca is limited in the funding and resources it can commit to programs like CIB and she says that is where it is very important for individuals and groups to step up and contribute wherever they can.

“People get full marks for taking care of their own landscaping and for caring for the flowers you see around the community mailboxes in town” she says, “and more people should support the local organizations that do so much for our town. Use your skills to support these organizations. It doesn’t have to be a Communities in Bloom project; just share your skills in the community.”

For those looking to support CIB directly, Ida can provide information about the “Adopt a Block” and “Foster a Plot” programs. Help is also welcome in the community gardens and with other local initiatives.

 

  
Retired Athabasca teacher Mary Gislason (left photo) and Town Councillor Colleen Powell (right photo) share moments and information with CIB judges Diane Clasen and Hugh Skinner on July 20.

Judges get whirlwind tour of town

The visiting CIB judges, Diane Clasen and Hugh Skinner, attended a meet and greet reception on July 19 where presentations were given by local groups. On July 20, Ida escorted them to numerous places around town to give them a broader sense of the people and programs in the community in relation to the evaluation criteria.

Among other stops, they attended a luncheon at All Saints Anglican Church where retired Athabasca teacher Mary Gislason presented an impressive collection of church-related archives. Other volunteers gave presentations on programs of international outreach they are involved with.

Town Councillor Colleen Powell led the judges on a tour of the Athabasca Train Station, highlighting the history of the building and some of the current restoration activities.

Time was spent with Landing Trail Intermediate School principal Glen Finney who talked about some of the programs the students are involved with, including the vegetable garden located at the school and tended to by the students.

The judges toured the Athabasca Native Friendship Centre and learned about its origins, purpose and community focused programs.

They visited the community gardens, located to the west of the new Athabasca University Academic and Research Centre (ARC), where they met Christine Thiel, a member of the Athabasca Garden Club, who provided an overview of the garden project.

Next, they walked through the ARC building to check out its unique design features. Then they headed back downtown where Ida toured them through the Athabasca Performing Arts Centre and the Nancy Appleby Theatre.

The CIB evaluation process takes into account a wide range of factors. Ida hopes that the busy itinerary provided Diane and Hugh with the positive input they need to recommend that Athabasca retains its “5 Blooms” status.

Watch for updates on the Athabasca Communities in Bloom Facebook page. Post your Athabasca stories and photos, too!

  
(left photo) Glen Finney, Principal, Landing Trail Intermediate School, and (right photo) Ida Edwards (left) and Christine Thiel, member of the Athabasca Garden Club (second from left), discuss community gardens, located respectively at LTIS and near the Athabasca University Academic and Research Centre (ARC), with CIB judges Hugh Skinner and Diane Clasen on July 20.

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