The city of Washington was just two percentage points shy of being rated a “five bloom community” in America in Bloom, a national competition.
Results were announced at the annual symposium in Fayetteville, Ark., at the end of September, however, the judges’ comments recently were received.
In 2011, the city’s first year in the competition, Washington received a three bloom rating.
“To find out we were only two percentage points from a five bloom rating in just two years (of participation) — that’s amazing,” Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy said. “That says a lot about our leadership.”
A total of 27 communities nationwide, split up by population, competed. Washington’s rivals included Arroyo Grande and Artesia, both in California; Madisonville, Ky.; and Holliston, Mass. America in Bloom judges visited Washington this past July.
Each city was judged on six criteria, including floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.
Categories were judged across three sectors — municipal, residential and commercial.
Communities could earn up to 175 points in five of six categories and a total of 125 points in the overall impressions category.
Washington fared as follows: floral displays, 147.50; landscaped areas, 147; urban forestry, 139.50, environmental efforts, 129; heritage preservation 160; and overall impression 107. In all, Washington earned an 83 percent. To be named a five-bloom community, communities need at least an 85 percent. Washington received a total of 830 out of 1,000 points.
The judges were Evelyn Alemanni and Barbara Vincentsen. In the comments, the judges noted that Missouri was experiencing a drought, with rainfall approximately 12 inches below normal during the judges’ visit. Judges noted that the drought was taken into consideration for scoring.
Judges complimented Washington’s America in Bloom team and the FFA program at Washington High School, as well as the master gardeners and Hillermann Nursery & Florist for their participation in the program.
Judges offered many suggestions on how to improve scores, including capitalizing on the city’s flower, the black-eyed Susan, which was voted on in July.
Darren Dunkle, parks director, also earned a “gold star” from the judges.
“Washington is blessed with the addition of Director of Parks and Recreations, Darren Dunkle,” the report said. “He deserves a gold star for the comprehensive maintenance plan he developed for all of the parks. His forward thinking and genuine love for parks is going to result in great things for Washington.”
Compliments also were given to many area residents for their personal gardens, as well as various businesses.
Additionally, judges took note of Washington’s bike trail, water meter project, library and recycling program.
Judges said Washington “shines in the area of heritage preservation.” They recognized the Great American Main Street Award from the Main Street Program.
Washington received a special mention for historic preservation and for the parks maintenance plan.
Lucy said the results were “incredible,” especially considering that the judging was redesigned this year, making it more difficult to receive a higher bloom rating. Despite that, Washington still moved from a three-bloom rating to a four-bloom rating.
Lucy said that when judges’ scores were received last year, the committee paid attention and implemented many of the judges’ suggestions.
“Washington has a tremendous amount of pride for (its) community,” Lucy said. “The America in Bloom concept is another avenue to display our pride.”
Sally Bocklage, Washington in Bloom chairperson, said earning the final bloom will be a goal for next year.
“We’ll work hard to achieve that,” she said. “Of course, that will require maintaining all the points we earned this year and add additional ones as further improvements are made.”
Bocklage said she appreciates the guidelines the program offers, as well as the opportunity to work firsthand with the national judges, local groups, city employees and business owners.