Communities in Bloom judges visit Mississippi Mills

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by Edith Cody-Rice

They had been discussing it for years", says Nicole Guthrie, Mississippi Mills staff representative on the Beautification Committee of the Mississippi Mills Council, and this year they just decided to "do it". Mississippi Mills for the first time entered the Communities in Bloom program.  "It was time that we began to really take pride in our community" she stated. Millstone editor Val Sears applauds the effort, saying that the beauty of Mississippi Mills was a principal reason for his building a home in Almonte.

Celebrating its 17th edition in 2011, Communities in Bloom  is a Canadian non-profit organization inspired and guided by Britain in Bloom, Tidy Towns of  Ireland and Villes et Villages Fleuris de France. It is committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement and the challenge of a national program, with focus on the promotion of green spaces in community settings.

In July and August, volunteer  judges visit participating communities and evaluate each one on its overall performance in the following categories: tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape, turf & groundcovers, floral displays and community involvement.

Communities are awarded from 1 to 5 blooms depending upon the evaluation of the judges. 1 bloom reflects an overall score of 55-63% , while 5 blooms reflects a score of 82% and above.

In addition to these eight criteria, special awards are presented to the communities every year, including awards for  sustainable development, community gardeners, youth involvement, land reclamation  and best blooming community.

Each year the Best Blooming Community designation is awarded to the community which achieved the highest aggregate score in both the Communities in Bloom and WinterLights Celebrations programs for a given year.

Fay Devlin of Clayton, a professional writer, volunteered three full weeks of professional time to put together the thick spiral bound presentation describing Mississippi Mills and its qualities, and it impressed the judges. The judges praised its professional look and all felt that it could well serve as an introduction to the town for other purposes.Communities in Bloom judges. 

Committee Member Leanne Solomonian mentioned the sense of good feeling generated by the project and the economic benefit that a beautiful town enjoys from increased interest in the community.

Councillor Val Wilkinson of Clayton praised the attention paid by this project and the judges to smaller rural villages which want to attract attention to their qualities and frequently feel neglected. The project also pulled the diverse communities of Mississippi Mills together as a single unit, she stated.  

Communities in Bloom was seen by the group as a catalyst to civic pride. The final evaluation report will be presented in Toronto in October at an annual awards celebration of the "green" landscaping industry.

The judges strongly recommended that Mississippi Mills send a delegation to this event. They said that their overall impression of Mississippi Mills was of a beautiful historic community. Contributing to this favourable impression were the committee members listed below and students Hannah Priddle and Hamish McPherson who have been maintaining the floral displays in Mississippi Mills during the summer.

This year the Beautification Committee handled the Communities in Bloom application, but Nicole Guthrie expects that a specific Communities in Bloom committee will be formed soon. The organizers plan to put out a nude calendar in September to raise $10,000 to pay for improvements. High on the list are a watering system for the River Walk garden,  with the ambition to one day hire a full time landscaper/gardener for the town.

The judges mentioned to the group that Communities in Bloom offers a bursary to individuals entering the "Green" landscaping professions

The Millstone salutes the following Beautification Committee members who steered this project to a successful conclusion.

Fern Martin (Chairperson)

Fay Devlin

Alex Gillis

Joachim Moenig

Nicole Guthrie, Community/Cultural Programmer

Cornelius Berg

Lea-Anne Solomonian

Julie Yeaman

Caitlin Langois