BLUFFTON — Seeing hanging baskets and planted flowers along a streetscape does more than just offer a pleasant sight for commuters. That botanical display, along with environmental investments, historical preservation and landscape upkeep, also displays community pride and investment.
That is the mindset behind America in Bloom, a grassroots community improvement program that helps communities learn from one another in community beautification and investment. On Thursday, two judges from the America in Bloom program made their way to Bluffton to look at the floral, environmental and historical investments the village has made to help improve quality of life for its residents.
“We encourage communities to plant pride,” America in Bloom judge Leslie Pittenger said. “One of the unique things about our program is that while there are a lot of things you could to check a box and get ‘certified,’ we send out a set of judges to be the eyes and see what’s going on and we then offer suggestions for how they can improve.”
The criteria the judges consider when looking at a community are floral arrangements, landscaping, urban forestry, environmental initiatives, heritage preservation and the overall look of the community.
“We look at those six criteria areas, and we also look at a seventh, one which carries just as much weight, and that is community involvement,” judge Linda Cromer said. “We’re really a program to help a community reach its own potential. It’s not judged against other communities. We just judge where you are as opposed to where you can be based on your own resources.”
After spending a day in Bluffton, both Pittenger and Cromer were impressed with what they saw.
“It is perfectly designed for an AIB community,” Pittenger said. “They’ve got a good start. They know they need other suggestions and they’re open to suggestions. People are working together.”
That initial report was good news for Bluffton Mayor Judy Augsburger, who hopes that starting a local America in Bloom committee in the village will help Bluffton continue to be an attractive village in which to live and do business.
“My hope for the program is to have a group that can coordinate, where groups can come to it and get ideas for maybe grants or how to make things happen or how to get more volunteers for something where we can work together,” she said.
The judges will remain in Bluffton Friday to see more of the village.