Stacy Barker from the FVRD talked about a successful plastics program just coming to an end in Agassiz

Bloom judges tour communities

Annual award looking for more than just pretty flowers

Communities in Bloom judges got a personal tour of three Fraser Valley communities over the last week.

Judges for the national portion of the competition visited Harrison Hot Springs and Hope last Friday. Judges for the provincial program visited the District of Kent on Monday, taking in a tour of Agassiz and several presentations from volunteers in the community.

Judge Lesa Petrick, from Burnaby, said judging this area gave her a chance to discover a community she’s only ever driven through when returning home from other points in the province.

“I’ve never really stopped to visit,” she said, but she was pleased with what she saw on Monday. This is her second year of judging, and will only be judging the District of Kent.

“That way we can give our full attention to one area,” she said.

Petrick was judging along with Shirley Fowler of Armstrong.

They were treated to presentations by Ken Schwaerzle of the Agassiz Agricultural Association and Fair Board, volunteer Detmar Schwichtenberg and the Fraser Valley Regional District’s Stacey Barker.

Many members of council and senior staff from the District of Kent attended the presentations.

Barker was one of the forces behind a pilot project that has so far resulted in 50 tons of agricultural plastic recycled in Agassiz.

The program has had five drop off days since it was started, and there will be one more later this year. Farmers are encouraged to collect the plastic and keep it on their farm until those pick up days. There was a 65 per cent participation rate, Barker told an audience gathered in Pioneer Park on Monday afternoon.

There is no cost to the farmers, who generally keep the plastics in one ton tote bags. Plastics accepted include bunker silo covers, twine, clear plastics, “ag bags” and large fertilizer bags.

“Most of them have told us they’re pleased with the convenience of it,” Barker said.

There are challenges to the program, she said. Agricultural plastic is dirtier than average household plastics, and finding a recycler willing to take on the project was difficult. But without the project, the plastics are typically sent to the landfill, burned or illegally dumped — none of which benefit the regional district.

It’s an appealing project, and Barker said she has received calls from other areas about how it’s implemented, including Cache Creek.

It’s possible the province could soon include ag plastics in the larger realm of returnable items, Barker said. But in the meantime, the District of Kent is the envy of green-friend communities throughout the province.

And that’s exactly the sort of innovation that Communities in Bloom judges are looking for. While some may think that the CiB program is all about what a town looks like, it’s much more than that.

Judges are looking at eight different criteria, including tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape, turf and groundcovers, floral displays and community involvement.

Part of the Agassiz tour included a guided walk through Pioneer Park, led by the District’s lead gardener Scott Hurst. They were shown the massive trees that grow throughout the park, and talked about what’s been done to preserve them.

Other communities entered in the provincial CiB program are Barriere, Cache Creek, Chetwynd, Clinton, Kelowna, Lake Country, Logan Lake, Mackenzie, Merritt, 100 Mile House, Salmon Arm, Sooke and Vernon.

Harrison Hot Springs and Hope are both competing in the National CiB awards.

Harrison is competing against other towns of similar size across the country. They are Ashcroft, Beausejour, MB, Bruderheim, AB, Dawson City, YT and Trenton, NS.

The District of Hope is participating in 3,001 – 6,500 population category along with Bay Roberts NL, Humboldt SK, Jasper AB, Kindersley SK, St. Stephen NB, Sussex NB and Vegreville, AB.

The results will be announced at the National Awards Ceremonies, hosted this year by Edmonton Capital Region in Alberta on October 10 to the 13.

Communities in Bloom is a Canadian non-profit organization “committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility, beautification and to improving quality of life through community participation and a national challenge.”

All three communities have participated in the past, and have been acknowledged through awards. Last year, Harrison won Five Blooms for the restoration work done at Memorial Hall.

The Districts of Kent and Hope also won Five Blooms in both 2010 and 2011. All three communities have volunteer committees which work toward earning the Blooms, and in turn, making each town a nicer place to live.

For more information on joining a Communities in Bloom committee, contact your local municipality office.

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