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Editorial: 'Bloom' competition already paying off for city

Jul. 08, 2013 @ 11:19 PM

Winning the America in Bloom competition this year would say a lot about how Huntington groups and individuals have worked hard to spruce up the city in recent months. Capturing the top prize in its population category also would be a valuable tool for promoting the city.

But coming out on top isn't necessary for the local effort -- called Huntington in Bloom -- to be a success. Win or lose, gaining from the America in Bloom contest has more to do with the bonds that have been built and developing a mindset going forward that the city's appearance does indeed matter and merits consistent attention by all of us.

America in Bloom is a nationwide contest formed in 2001 that promotes beautification through education and community involvement. Cities that sign up to compete will be visited by judges who will evaluate them on floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.

The judges assigned to Huntington will be here Thursday and Friday to tour several of Huntington's historic buildings, parks, cemeteries, museums and tree-lined neighborhoods. The judges also will provide valuable feedback on Huntington's strengths and the areas in which it needs to improve. Huntington is competing against three other cities in its population category.

To prepare for the judges' visit, individuals and groups have been working in several areas to beautify the city, planting flowers, cleaning up litter and landscaping. Those leading the Huntington in Bloom effort say more than 100 volunteers have contributed on several fronts, and also have pitched in money and in-kind services to the tune of more than $40,000.

The Huntington in Bloom initiative blends well with city government efforts to improve the city's appearance. Over the last few years, more attention has been paid to tearing down unsightly dilapidated structures, and this spring the city launched an extensive citywide cleanup. Just this month, city government also initiated stricter enforcement of codes to reduce eyesores, such as tall grass and weeds, indoor furniture on porches, and junked cars in yards.

With all those initiatives, the city's appearance has improved already and should be even better in the years ahead. There's no question that they were needed; the city's shrinking population over the past several decades resulted in hundreds of abandoned houses, and those contributed to unsightly neighborhoods as well as havens for crime.

Turning that around and beautifying the city can pay several dividends in regard to economic development, tourism and quality of life. It also can build a community spirit that enables all Huntington residents to show their pride in a community by taking better care of their own slice of it.

It's still not too late to join the effort. Clean up your property, pull the weeds, plant some flowers and let the judges know that Huntington can indeed bloom into a more beautiful city. More importantly, commit to doing that for years to come so that residents can be proud of their city and visitors can take notice.

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