Castlegar cops five CiB blooms in national program

The City of Castlegar has once again performed very well at the 2011 National Communities in Bloom competition.

Castlegar's Downtown Art Farm received a special mention at the Communities in Bloom national competition.

Castlegar's Downtown Art Farm received a special mention at the Communities in Bloom national competition.

The City of Castlegar has once again performed very well at the 2011 National Communities in Bloom competition.

“We achieved five blooms again and we’re really happy about that,” said Castlegar Communities in Bloom chair Darlene Kalawsky. “We have increased our scoring which is a great indication that we are doing things in the right way. We’re very happy.”

Castlegar received 840 points out of 1,000. The city also received a special mention for the Downtown Art Farm volunteer project. “We’ve come up about 10 points,” said Kalawsky. “I know it sounds minute but that’s how the scoring system works.”

Castlegar was a finalist in the 7,501-10,000 population category, which was won by New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. The cities were judged on eight different criteria: Floral, Landscape, Urban Forestry, Environment, Tidiness, Community Involvement, Turf and Groundcover, and Heritage.

“The report from the judges was very glowing of the City of Castlegar and what has happened in the city,” said Kalawsky. “The recommendations that we received, it looks like just a lot of tweaking that must be done (to improve the city’s score). Nothing majorly stands out in any of the categories.”

In their evaluation, judges Arlene Janzen (White City, SK) and Hugh Skinner (Roblin, MB) said: “One is introduced to both the imagination and charm of Castlegar’s gardens and art displays at the Downtown Art Farm. This project embodies many principles of sustainability and community-building, principles that Communities in Bloom encourages. Volunteer groups strive to improve a community while involving people of different ages. One goes on marvelling at the many whimsical figures of the city’s downtown sculpture walk program. The downtown is characterized by sculptures, attractive, well-maintained trees, and colourful flower beds. Spirit Square in front of the new Castlegar City Hall and the linked green space in front of the Station Museum are beautiful gathering spaces in the downtown.”

We do need to work on a few areas such as environmental sustainability in terms of communicating with the judges about what we have going, said Kalawsky. “The areas we would like to look at for next year – and this is all pending our budget and our involvement with our municipality – doing some work on our heritage conservation. That area was one of our lower scores. The other one would be environmental action.”

Kalawsky said that, unfortunately, due to some issues with travel, the judges were unable to be in Castlegar for as long as they would normally.

“I’m interpreting some of these scores as them not getting all the information when they needed,” she said.

The judges made several recommendations in the various categories that Castlegar Communities in Bloom (CiB) is hoping they can implement.

“We toured with them on the Brilliant Bridge and they suggested the Regional District of the Central Kootenay put information in a pamphlet so self-guided walkers can learn more about the natural historic site and it’s restoration,” said Kalawsky. “They talk about an interpretive pamphlet that would talk about the unique forest environment in the Kootenay/Columbia region.”

The judges also recommended waste-proof, bear-proof receptacles all over the city, as well as a dog park at Millennium Park.

“There are just recommendations they made to us, whether we act on them or not. These are their opinions,” said Kalawsky.

The judges were very impressed by much of what they saw in Castlegar including the entrance to the airport, the downtown revitalization project, and the Adopt-A-Road program.

“They thought the Adopt-A-Road program was very impressive in terms of all the groups and individuals that are involved,” said Kalawsky.

The Castlegar Communities in Bloom committee will certainly not  rest on their considerable laurels.

“We will take all the recommendations and present them to our Public Works Department,” said Kalawsky. “We might then take into consideration what might be a possibility and what might not be.”

Kalawsky said the committee is always looking for citizen input in terms of making the city a better place to live.

“What the program strongly says is that our community is very active and very pro-active in doing what they’re doing and they do it well,” she said. “We basically just need to tweak this program and encourage more people to get involved with it. Basically, what we’re going to be looking at is how we can build on what we’ve already done so well.”

Communities in Bloom will be presenting the Five Bloom Certificate to Castlegar City Council on Nov. 7 at the regular council meeting.

Currently, volunteers for CiB are planting bulbs around Castlegar and getting the bed ready for winter.

“We’re still driving and continuing to drive,” said Kalawsky. “The scoring is important but the focus is ‘how will we make Castlegar better for the citizens’ and that’s why we keep going. We want more people to become aware of all the different parts of the program so they can participate with us and make it happen.”

If anyone wants more information on Castlegar CiB or would like to help out please contact Darlene Kalawsky at 250-365-2155 or by email at Residents can also stop by City Hall and leave your name and number.

“The Communities in Bloom committee would like to thank all the members of our community that have participated this past year in our program,” said Kalawsky. “We invite anyone who is interested to get in touch with myself or City Hall. We’d be very happy to get them involved.”