By Treena Hein
Founding president hopes for full Canadian involvement by 25th year
By Treena Hein
Everyone loves a beautiful community, with lots of green space and gardens abounding with flowers, trees and attractive shrubs.
Having many more, and much more, beautiful communities is the goal of Communities in Bloom (CIB), a Canadian non-profit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and national beautification through community involvement. The organization’s motto is “People, plants and pride… growing together.”
In three short years, the program will celebrate its 25th year of operation and founding president Raymond Carriere says, “Our goal by that time is to have all communities in Canada involved! A bit audacious, but it’s our goal.”
Carriere recalls how the program came about, building on European initiatives.
“The Province of Quebec had an “in bloom” program since 1980, based on a program in France called the Villes et Villages Fleuris de France,” he explains. “In the early 1990s, the participating municipalities in Quebec wanted to challenge other Canadian municipalities in friendly competition, but they discovered that there were not any other programs in the country. So they decided participate in a European program called Entente Florale.”
Carriere was asked to be the Quebec delegate at the 1993 Entente Florale awards in Ireland, and there he met representatives from national programs such as Tidy Towns of Ireland and Britain in Bloom.
“What I liked about the idea of a national program, being from a parks background, was that it was a way to recognize beautification and the role that groundskeepers and parks supervisors have in creating it,” he remembers. “You know that every time a community is promoted as a great place to work or live or visit, the pictures are all about the gardens and green spaces.”
The people Carriere met encouraged him to work with others to form a national Canadian program, and on Carriere’s return, he and colleagues from Quebec, such as Albiny Provost from Nutrite and the late former mayor of Stratford Ted Blowes, decided to make it happen.
It was a big task. They began by contacting each and every provincial municipal, tourism and parks association, and by 1994, had established a national committee with the assistance of Ottawa’s National Capital Commission. A year later, CIB was born and was holding its first contest.
Nutrite, a company which had sponsored the Quebec program, became the first CIB sponsor, followed by Toro, Turf & Recreation magazine and Zaunscherb Marketing.
“There were only 29 communities involved in the first edition, and the winners were honoured at the first awards ceremonies on Parliament Hill,” Carriere recalls. “Since then, it has grown to over 900 communities that have participated at least once, and in recent years, we have about 350 regularly involved at the provincial, national and international level. Many communities continue with ‘in Bloom’ programs, even if they are not officially registered in the program.”
While some aspects of CIB have changed since 1995, others have stayed the same. While CIB was and still is about beautification and creating true green spaces, Carriere notes that the program has always gone well beyond that.
“Even in 1995, environmental factors such as composting, recycling and water conservation were included in the judging,” he says. “Heritage conservation was added early on in the program as well. This includes care for heritage trees, and having beautification that’s in harmony with the existing landscape.”
Other changes to CIB have included a trend to communities promoting more and more naturalization of areas, and showcasing much more variety in floral use. Perennials and grasses have become more popular, and environmental aspects have become more prominent. This year, CIB will add a new section to the website (previously located at another website) which will function as an information exchange network where communities can share accomplishments, best practices and projects.
The program now includes municipalities in provincial, territorial and national editions along with an international challenge, involving communities from Canada, the United States, Asia and several European countries.
Many benefits of CIB are obvious, such as beautification, building community pride, increasing a sense of community and providing a feeling of cooperative accomplishment. However, other important benefits are not as obvious.
“There is strong potential for individuals and the entire community to benefit financially from the program through community tourism initiatives, business opportunities and other green space-related projects,” Carriere notes. “Many of our participant communities have seen a positive difference in economic development.
“I also think the program has really brought Canadian municipalities together by very simply providing communities opportunities to engage their citizens in a common goal. While difficult to prove or quantify, we often hear people says that it has made their communities better places to live in, work in and visit. And this year, for the Canada 150 celebrations, it made our entire country look better and helped create a strong collective feeling of pride and joy.”
The CIB team is presently reviewing the program so that it’s in the best possible shape to face current and future challenges.
“These challenges are not small – budget restraints, volunteer burnout and the need to involve young adults – but we will face them in the spirit of Communities in Bloom,” Carriere says, “together.”
- Began in 1995
- More than 900 Canadian municipalities have competed at least once
- CIB workshops and awards ceremonies are held in all provinces throughout the year
For more information, visit www.communitiesinbloom.ca