Top honors for the 2017 America in Bloom (AIB) National Awards Program were announced at the annual awards symposium held in Holliston, Mass., this past Saturday.
Washington retained the highest ranking available in the competition — five blooms — and remained in the circle of champions for the medium population division.
The city also received a special award for best pollinator garden and special recognition for landscaped areas.
Director of Parks and Recreation Darren Dunkle said it’s an honor for the city to earn a five-bloom rating and remain in the circle of champions.
“We’re running out of wall space (for our awards),” Dunkle said.
Judges Tony Ferrara and Barbara Vincentsen rewarded Washington with 872 out of 1,000 points.
In individual categories, the city earned 153 points out of 175 in floral displays, 156 out of 175 for its landscaped areas, 151 out of 175 in the urban forestry category, 145 out of 175 in environmental efforts, 158 out of 175 in heritage preservations and a 109 out of 125 in overall impression.
The judges visited Washington this past July. They were given a tour around town and tasked with evaluating Washington and pointing out areas it could improve. The judges’ report outlined areas of improvement and also highlighted areas where Washington excelled.
Washington in Bloom representatives attending the symposium were Mayor Sandy Lucy; Parks Director Darren Dunkle; Josh Wargo, horticulturist and arborist; and John Steffens, who serves on the steering committee.
“Washington continues to be a model for other cities to follow,” the judges’ report read. “We commend the city and Washington in Bloom committee for their efforts to establish partnerships with the business community, local volunteer groups, and other organizations, all with a singular focus of making Washington ‘the best it can be.’ ”
The report went on to mention Washington’s transformation since it joined America in Bloom.
“What a pleasure it has been to witness the incredible transformation that has occurred in Washington over the past seven years,” the report stated. “We also congratulate Washington for its continued membership in the America in Bloom Circle of Champions, an accomplishment not easily achieved.”
All participants were evaluated on six criteria: overall impression, environmental awareness, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas and floral displays.
Additionally, cities were judged on their community involvement across municipal, residential and commercial sectors.
America in Bloom is the only national awards program that sends specially trained judges to personally visit participants. Each participant receives a detailed written evaluation that can be used as a guide to future improvements.
Judges Ferrara and Vincentsen visited communities of similar populations and spent two days touring each town, meeting municipal officials, residents and volunteers.
In addition to its 2017 honors, Washington has a history of past successes with AIB, including winning its population category and outstanding achievement awards in urban forestry and community involvement.
To date, 250 communities from 41 states have participated in the program and more than 22 million people have been touched by it.
Dunkle said the idea of hosting America in Bloom’s symposium in Washington had been tossed around by Washington in Bloom’s committee.
He hopes by 2020 the city will be able to host it, adding that currently Washington doesn’t have a hotel that could support a symposium of America in Bloom’s size.
By 2020 some of the city’s major projects, like the new Highway 47 bridge, should be completed, he noted.
“I think we have the means to do it,” Dunkle said. “We’d need to get other organizations involved. We have two years.”
He added that the symposium could bring nearly 175 people to Washington.
Dunkle was nominated as a contender for AIB’s Community Champion award. He received a plaque for being nominated.
Washington in Bloom Committee Co-Chair Sally Bocklage said Washington has placed so well the past several years because of Dunkle.
“We’re very grateful for all he does for the community,” Bocklage said.