With an extensive tour schedule, judges from the America in Bloom national awards program visited Washington Monday and Tuesday, July 16-17.
The judges’ itinerary Monday included breakfast at the home of John and Tessie Steffens, a drive-by at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Peace Lutheran community garden and Patients First Health Care facility, now Mercy Clinic, a visit to Krog Park, the Mercy Hospital doctors building healing garden, the water treatment facility, Rotary Riverfront trail, Rhine River Development, City of Washington Recycling Center, Franklin County Recycling Center, the industrial park and the fairgrounds — all before noon.
In the afternoon, judges visited Lions Lake, the parks department office and drove by Lakeview Park, Kohmueller Homestead and Barklage Field.
The group also visited the Burger Park and Wal-Mart water retention areas, as well as the Phoenix Park retention area. Additionally, the judges toured several subdivisions, including Washington Heights, Lake Washington and StoneCrest, where they stopped at Marty and Marsha Riggs’ home, the April 2011 yard of the month. Marsha Riggs is president of the Washington Garden Club.
Dinner Monday night was at the home of Walt and Wanda Rogers Larson. The Larsons live in the former home of Lucinda Owens, the founder of Washington.
Tuesday morning began with breakfast at Immanuel Lutheran Church. From there, judges visited the newly renovated library, city hall and public safety building. Then, judges toured the Downtown Washington Inc. offices in the renovated downtown post office. Lafayette Park, located across the street from the post office, was another stop.
Judges took a walking tour of the historic downtown with stops at the Chamber of Commerce and Washington Farmers’ Market. Later, they visited the Bank of Washington and the Washington Historical Society.
“It is going so beautifully,” Sally Bocklage, co-chair of the Washington in Bloom committee, said Tuesday. “The judges are enthralled by our city. They’ve appreciated every aspect of the historical revitalization, the downtown post office, the new elements, the renovated library and the plantings.”
Dave Wehmeyer, co-chair, agreed, adding that the judges are impressed with everything despite the dry weather Washington has had.
“They’re overwhelmed right now,” he said.
Wehmeyer said the judges commented that they’ve never seen records so perfect as at the parks department.
He said judges also are impressed with the volunteerism of the community.
On Tuesday evening, judges were scheduled to take a tour of Jesuit Hall before a “Celebrate Washington” dinner.
During the dinner, results of the Washington city symbols contest were scheduled to be announced. Those results will run in the weekend paper.
This is Washington’s second entry in the America in Bloom national awards program. In 2011, Washington received a criteria award for its community involvement efforts.
This year’s judges are Evelyn Alemanni, of Elfin Forest, Calif., and Barbara Vincentsen, of Westfield, N.J. This is Alemanni’s second visit to Washington.
“I was here last year judging and I’m so stunned and amazed at the huge progress in one year,” she said. “The dedication of your residents is continuing, improving and growing. It’s such a great reflection on your city.”
Though the judges hadn’t finished touring Tuesday morning, Alemanni said she enjoyed the library and Immanuel Lutheran Church, and was impressed with the planning going on in Washington with the comprehensive plan, the new medians planned for Highway 100, the Jaycees All-Abilities Park... “it goes on and on,” she said.
This is Vincentsen’s first year judging Washington. She said the commercial sector of town demonstrated incredible planning.
“The parks are beautifully maintained and the management practice is as good as it gets,” she said. “It’s truly excellent.”
Vincentsen reviewed the management practice book for the parks as part of Monday’s tour.
Like Alemanni, Vincentsen said the library makes a wonderful statement for the town.
“You should be very proud of it,” she said, adding that it would be really difficult to choose the most impressive thing she had seen so far.
“It’s one impressive thing after another,” she said.
Judges evaluate six criteria including overall impression, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscapes and floral displays. The criteria are examined across four sectors: commercial, municipal, residential and community involvement.
The judges will prepare an extensive written evaluation offering observations of exceptional practices and suggestions for improvements. The evaluation will be presented after awards are announced in September.
Additionally, participants have opportunities to receive recognition in bloom rating, population category winner, criteria award, community champion or YouTube video or a special mention.
Criteria awards are the best of the best in all population categories in each of the six evaluated criteria.
Special mentions are made for what judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program.
Population category winners are invited to participate in an international competition via the Communities in Bloom program in Canada.