The city has competed in the Communities in Bloom program since 2000, with the exception of 2008, and over the past couple of years City Council has been discussing reducing its participation due to the high cost of bringing in judges. Sarah Cockerill, Director of Community Services, argues that the spirit of Communities in Bloom has been more important than the scores the city earns.
“The Communities in Bloom program has brought our community a long way towards our quality of life that we experience now. The story of Communities in Bloom has always been, ‘it’s more than just flowers’,” she argues. “It’s always been about a celebration of our community and our spirit and to make out home a better place.”
Participating has sparked successful programs like Pitch-In Day and Community Planting Day, but Cockerill believes the feeling of pride in our community can live on without being judged. She also suggests that the City does not have to be the sole founder of these efforts, and that any programs that are discontinued could be picked up by another organization.
“None of these programs are bad; they’re all very good programs,” she maintains, “it’s just whether or not we want to continue them and/or make room for something else.”
Overall, City Council seemed to agree that the funds for the Best Decked Contest and Garden Contest, who have recently experienced low participation, could potentially be better allocated, along with the cost of Communities in Bloom judging. Councillors also suggested that they would prefer to end the Flower Pot Program, which contracts the Arts Council to Paint Flower Pots which are then purchased by the City and donated back for auction, after the remaining 24 are donated this year. The City has moved towards self-watering pots that can’t be painted. City Council indicated it would like to see trees put into the community, but would consider other options than subsidizing the trees sold at Arbour.
City staff have several ideas for new projects, like a community orchard, an “adopt-a-park” pilot program and a playground maintenance program that could run off the funds from discontinued programs. Staff will take council’s direction and prepare a report.