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The transformation begins

Even as the winter winds are headed our way, an idea is blooming in North Battleford: an idea aiming to transform the city. The North Battleford Communities in Bloom committee held their first meeting Sept. 15 at the Chapel Gallery.
North Battleford's director of parks and recreation, Stuart York, gives a presentation on the Communities in Bloom program, which North Battleford will be a part of for the first time this year.

Even as the winter winds are headed our way, an idea is blooming in North Battleford: an idea aiming to transform the city.

The North Battleford Communities in Bloom committee held their first meeting Sept. 15 at the Chapel Gallery. The meeting was open to any and all interested members of the community to share what initiatives they are already working on, volunteer their time, suggest new strategies and co-ordinate the effort to make North Battleford a leader in the Communities in Bloom challenge.

"I think anytime you can get a whole bunch of groups and people working together for a common goal, the chances of success are much better," said Keith Anderson, director of parks.

Stuart York, North Battleford's director of parks and recreation, gave a brief presentation outlining the eight criteria Communities in Bloom participants are evaluated on: tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape, turf and groundcovers, floral displays and community involvement.

He also talked about the process involved in competing in Communities in Bloom: registration, scheduling a visit with judges who must be housed and fed by the community, the evaluation, "and then I say we have a party."

York was previously director of parks and recreation in Vermilion, Alta. and Armstrong, B.C. Both communities have taken part in the Communities in Bloom challenge and both have won awards through the program, so York was able to share examples of strategies employed by the communities, including the Mile of Marigolds in Armstrong, where people in the community, including York's five children, planted marigolds along the highway leading into the city.

"We didn't get any vandalism on that because so many people were involved in it," said York, explaining having many people involved in any given initiative translates to a sense of ownership and more eyes watching out for vandals.

"Vandalism is always a challenge," said York. "We have to clean it up and we have to move on."

Other ideas included community clean-up days, school competitions, having businesses sponsor flower baskets and adopt-a-block, where an individual or group will adopt one city block and keep it clean. York recalled a Vermilion woman who would take a garbage bag with her when she went walking, filling it up with litter along the way.

After the presentation, attendees were split into groups of three, with each group jotting down ongoing initiatives and strategies they were aware of in the community in each of the eight categories.

Examples brought up included the North Battleford Housing Authority's yard pride program, the recycling and compost bins, the slow release fertilizer used by the City, the King Hill pathways and Milbanke's restoration.

As a whole, the attendees discussed what made each strategy effective, as well as what the major problems facing the city are.

Everyone seemed to agree on the downtown area needing revitalization.

"It's ugly and it's empty and people feel unsafe there," said attendee Jennifer Miller.

After this, people got back into their groups of three and brainstormed for ideas to improve the city in each of the eight categories.

Each group presented their three favourite ideas and together everyone decided which ideas could be put into action this year and which would be future plans.

"You have to be focused and you can't try to do everything in the first year," said York.

Ideas to be implemented this year include a business challenge, beautifying the entrance to the city, school competitions and a tag art mural.

"We have to find ways to make sure it resonates with everybody," said York.

Although the winter season puts a damper on outdoor activities, Charlotte Hamilton, a committee member, said the time would be well-spent presenting ideas to service groups and school boards and organizing volunteers.

"We're hoping to get the momentum growing," she said.

For more information on how to get involved with Communities in Bloom, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 445-1740.

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