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City to be judged on efforts to beautify

Jul. 06, 2013 @ 11:37 PM

HUNTINGTON -- After months of preparation, Huntington officials say they are ready for two visiting judges to evaluate the city's beautification efforts this week.

The judges will be in town Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12, to tour several of Huntington's historic buildings, parks, cemeteries, museums and tree-lined neighborhoods for the America in Bloom competition. The nationwide contest was formed in 2001 and promotes beautification through education and community involvement.

Their visit will be used to evaluate the city using six criteria: floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.

A core group of volunteers has been working on each of these six initiatives for the past few months.

"We think the preparation has gone very well, and the subcommittee chairs have really stepped up and taken great care of each of their respective areas," said Tom Bell, who is co-chair of Huntington in Bloom with Lisa Riley, executive assistant for the Huntington Municipal Development Authority. "The city is as ready as it's going to be. We continuously receive many favorable comments about how beautiful the city is right now."

More than 100 volunteers have pitched in on several accomplishments made by Huntington in Bloom and its partners this year, Bell said. They include:

Hanging flower baskets throughout the downtown and flower plantings at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, Heritage Station, City Hall, Cabell County Courthouse, along Veterans Memorial Boulevard and on 9th Street.

A new mural on the 14th Street West underpass and a new landscaped area near the Hal Greer Boulevard underpass.

Installation of the last of the commemorative sidewalk plaques along the Old Main Corridor on 4th Avenue.

Businesses, churches and neighborhood groups embracing the Huntington in Bloom color theme of red, white and blue.

In addition to the volunteer activities, Huntington in Bloom received a grant to purchase a street vacuum, and Huntington resident Courtney Proctor Cross donated money to purchase a second street vacuum. Dr. Joseph Touma also donated funds to pay clients at the Coalition for the Homeless to water flowers and pick up litter downtown. The Municipal Parking Board donated money to pay for the water used to water downtown plants.

Altogether, approximately $42,000 in cash and in-kind contributions has been privately raised to support Huntington in Bloom's beautification efforts, Bell said.

Huntington is among four cities in the 30,000-50,000 category that have signed up for this year's America in Bloom competition. The others are Winter Garden, Fla., Holland, Mich., and DeKalb, Ill.

Each city will receive a "bloom rating," or score, in each of the criteria. Winners are then selected among various population categories, with each winner moving on to the international competition.

Bell said Huntington's effort is about more than winning a contest. It has given volunteers an outlet to help clean up the city and allowed coordinators to devise a plan of improving quality of life through beautification, historic preservation and environmental efforts, he said.

The judges also will provide valuable feedback on Huntington's strengths and the areas in which it needs to improve, Bell said.

"This is not a one-time, one-shot deal," he said. "This is something we'll be working on for many years to come."

Bell said residents and business owners can help this week by picking up litter and pulling weeds in front of their properties and planting red, white and blue flowers in flower pots or window boxes. Free Huntington in Bloom yard signs also will be available in the Mayor's Office at City Hall, 800 5th Ave.

For more information about Huntington in Bloom, visit the organization's website at www.huntingtoninbloom.com or Facebook page, www.facebook.com/huntingtoninbloom. To volunteer for any Huntington in Bloom project, go to www.unitedwevolunteer.org or www.huntingtoninbloom.com/get-involved.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

About the judges and their visit to Huntington

HUNTINGTON -- Two judges from the America in Bloom national awards program will visit Huntington on Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12, to evaluate the city on six criteria.

ABOUT THE JUDGES: Judge Bruce Riggs freelances in horticulture and is involved in several nonprofit institutions. He also has a family landscape design business with his wife, Melanie, also an America in Bloom judge, in New Rochelle, N.Y. He recently was curator of science at the Bruce Museum of Arts & Science in Greenwich, Conn., and spent 18 years at the New York Botanical Garden, where he created and implemented an internationally recognized interpretation program.

Judge Barbara Vincentsen is owner of Vincentsen Associates, an architectural firm in Westfield, N.J. She is a licensed architect in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, and is a licensed professional planner and certified interior designer in New Jersey.

She also grew up in a gardening family and has continued her family tradition in her own gardens, which have plantings shared from three generations.

THURSDAY ACTIVITIES: The judges will begin their evaluation Thursday morning, July 11, with walking tours of the downtown, Harris Riverfront Park, Heritage Station, Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau and Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. They will then walk by City Hall and the Cabell County Courthouse on their way to Trinity Episcopal Church, 520 11th St., for lunch. They will hear a presentation about the historical stained-glass windows at the church and meet with elected officials during lunch.

Thursday afternoon, the judges will board a TTA trolley for a tour of Ritter Park, including such offerings as the DAR log cabin, playground, dog park and rose garden. They will then tour the Huntington Museum of Art and eat dinner at Le Bistro on 4th Avenue before returning to their hotel for the evening.

FRIDAY ACTIVITIES: Friday morning, July 12, will include a stroll down 3rd and 4th avenues to look at hanging flower baskets and a walking tour of Marshall University's campus and visit with President Stephen Kopp. They will then board the TTA trolley for stops at Springhill Cemetery; the historic Madie Carroll House and Paul Ambrose Trail for Health in Guyandotte; the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House, homes along Staunton Road and St. Mary's Medical Center in Highlawn; and Steel of West Virginia to learn about the company's recycling and environmental initiatives.

They will eat lunch at Savannah's Restaurant and hear a presentation about more environmental initiatives in Huntington. Their afternoon will include a visit to the CSX train station on 7th Avenue; the historic Johnson Meek House on 6th Avenue and 2nd Street; Southside Elementary School and various tree-lined streets in the neighborhood; the Memorial Arch; Little League 3; Old Central City; and the Woodlands Retirement Community. Their day will conclude with a guided tour of and dinner at Heritage Farm Museum and Village where they will spend the night.

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