The City of Castlegar was a big winner at the Communities in Bloom National Awards ceremony. Castlegar retained their five bloom status and came first in the 6,501 – 10,000 population category for 2012.
Darlene Kalawsky, Communities in Bloom (CiB) volunteer coordinator, attended the CiB National Symposium Awards and at the Edmonton Capital Region on Oct. 12 and 13 and was thrilled to learn of the honour.
“It’s very exciting for us to be recognized,” she said. “The committee is ecstatic. We’re really pleased to be recognized. We know we have a great community but sometimes the recognition has to come from the outside in for people to believe it.”
Castlegar has been involved in the national Communities in Bloom program for the past three years and have posted five blooms each time. This is the first time the city has won the national award.
“I knew our scores were getting close,” said Kalawsky. “The last two years we’ve been in five blooms. This is our third year at the national level of competition. I thought we still had some work to do. I was still surprised though. I was happy surprised. I was sure hoping we’d come out on top. You know we’ve had a really good year. We’ve got a lot of projects going on. I knew when the judges were here that they really enjoyed being here. That doesn’t always mean you’ll score high.
“I think we have an extremely valuable volunteer core in our community. I think that also makes a very big difference in your outcome. The cities, the municipalities involvement is key. Public works is very important to this program. They look at things like landscape design, parks and so on. Tidiness, your garbage cans, all these different things.”
Castlegar was selected ahead of Hinton, Alberta; Antigonish, Nova Scotia; and Yarmouth, New Brunswick. The cities were judged on seven different categories.
“The total score is out of 1,000 points,” said Kalawsky. “You’re competing in seven areas of criteria. It’s how you best express – what you do with these criteria in your community. Say for tidiness you get so many points; for environmental action, you get so many points; and on to heritage conservation, landscape management, urban forestry, floral display, and community involvement. It’s not just flowers. It’s everything that your city is doing. It’s a measurement of how well your city is developing these areas of criteria.”
In addition to the five bloom rating, Castlegar received special mention for the Brilliant Bridge restoration project at the symposium.
Following their evaluation of the community, volunteer judges Steve Preston and Darlene Blake wrote: “The Brilliant Bridge was built in 1913 to cross the Columbia River, joining the Doukhobor community of Brilliant to the growing city of Castlegar. A piece of heroic construction, it nevertheless fell into disuse after a new bigger and better bridge was built to serve the community of Castlegar, its construction is an amazing example of ingenuity and courage by the Doukhobors when only hand tools and the simplest of machinery were available. Congratulations to the City of Castlegar for taking up the challenge of restoring this bridge and making it a part of the Trans-Canada Trail Systems.”
For next year, Castlegar Communities in Bloom must decide whether to remain at the national level or move up to the international level.
“We can go into the international challenge which includes all the national winners including Britain in Bloom, America in Bloom, Tidy Towns of Ireland, and Japan Bloom,” said Kalawsky. “The Circle of Champions is another option and that includes past winners. The Circle of Excellence is another one. That’s a non-competitive option. We could also become a mentor for another community. There are some options there for the committee to make a decision on with the city’s assistance.”