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Group launches Huntington city effort

Bloom
Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:15 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington has entered a national competition that is designed to enhance communities through beautification.

"Our goal is to make this sustainable. It's not a one-shot deal to impress judges," said Tom Bell, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority. "It's our opportunity to be exemplary and help make Huntington a place that people want to live."

Bell spoke to The Herald-Dispatch's editorial board Wednesday about Huntington's participation in the 2013 America in Bloom program. America in Bloom is a nonprofit organization formed in 2001 which promotes beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.

The organization offers a national awards program that provides a framework for improving quality of life and includes on-site coaching by a team of expert judges. Huntington is among 20 cities in 14 states that have signed up for the competition thus far. Registration ends Feb. 28.

The judges evaluate each city using six criteria: floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression. Each of the criteria is further evaluated on municipal, residential, commercial and community involvement.

Each city receives a "bloom" rating on a scale of one to five based on the judges' scores. "Best of the best" awards for each of the six criteria also go to the cities that put on the best presentation in their population groups. Huntington will be in the 25,000-50,000 population group, Bell said.

Lisa Riley, Bell's executive assistant and a member of the new Huntington in Bloom Committee, said judges will spend two days in Huntington in late June or early July, which is why the committee will use a red, white and blue theme using American flags and floral displays. The effort will focus on the downtown but it will also include Marshall University's campus, residential neighborhoods, parks and historic buildings, she said.

"This brings us national recognition and exposure, it gives us an opportunity to get ready and clean up, and it gives us some valuable community feedback from professionally trained judges who have seen the best of what cities across the country have to offer," Riley said. "I think that alone is worth its weight in gold."

Right now there is a core group of individuals working on the six criteria, Riley said. They will make presentations and solicit volunteers during a public meeting at 7 p.m. April 15 at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Marshall, the Huntington Area Development Council, Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and the arena are partners in the project.

For more information about America in Bloom, visit www.americainbloom.org.

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

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