Living the Okanagan way

Communities in Bloom helps Lake Country to be a better place to live, work and visit.

You might think the name makes it sound like the focus is on flowers and gardens, but in reality the Communities in Bloom program is all about getting people involved in making their community a better place in which to live, work, and visit. Inspiring citizen and civic involvement in enhancing the community’s resilience and liveability is a primary goal of the program.

This is the second year that Lake Country has participated in the program, and we look at it as a catalyst to inventory assets and review progress and improvement in the community, while unifying individuals, business leaders, municipal staff and local service clubs who care about helping their community achieve its full potential by working on areas specific to the program evaluation criteria – tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape, floral displays and community involvement.  So the bottom line is that no matter what “Bloom” rating we get from the judges, everyone wins.

The Communities in Bloom (CiB) organization recognizes that all participants are winners with respect to their ability to attract tourism, new development, investment and general economic activity based on being more attractive, liveable communities.  And it is great to live and work in a community where the pride of residents, businesses and service clubs is evident everywhere!

The qualified volunteer CiB judges visited Lake Country last week, and enjoyed “An Evening in the Park” at Swalwell Park on Wednesday to participate in the dedication of the shade structure installation, and celebrate with award winners of the Bloomin’ Garden contested hosted by the Lake Country Garden Club.   The new shade structures were possible through a donation from the Lake Country Lions Club in the amount of $3,700 and a grant in the amount of $8,000 the  from American Academy of Dermatology.  Earlier that day, Winfield ward Councillor Rob Geier had organized a crew of volunteers from Connect Communities Lake Country (brain injury residence) under the supervision of Raymond Tims, along with a bus load of Camp Hatikvah volunteers to give the road shoulders, sidewalks, greenspaces, shopping area and civic precinct area an extra sparkle.

On Thursday the judges put in a long day with two senior Parks staff and were taken on a driving and walking tour of Woodsdale Tennis Courts, Beasley & Reiswig Parks, Winfield Community Gardens, Winfield Creek Wildlife Preserve, Memorial Park, Seniors’ Centre Rose Garden, Jack Seaton Park including the new Arboretum; lunch at the Okanagan Centre Museum Patio Café, then a tour of Gibson House at Kopje Park, learned about biological pest management at Whiskey Cove, and visited a private residence on Lake Pine before heading up to view the transformation of Apex Drive Park; and finally dinner at the residence of one of the municipal councillors.

Judges were impressed with the Lake Country Community Profile book that was prepared for their visit to highlight community involvement in all of the evaluation criteria areas.  “If I didn’t already live here, after reading the community profile I’d want to move here,” said community recreation coordinator Sheila Gunn.  “It really reminds me what an amazing community we live in.”

The profile book was completed with input from staff in all departments at the District, Walk Around Lake Country (WALC), the Heritage and Cultural Society and community groups such as the Oyama Community Club, Okanagan Centre Hall and the Public Art Commission.

“Using last year’s evaluation and sitting down with staff we were able to make improvements to our operations that will have a lasting impact on our community,” said Steve Schaffrick, Director of Community and Customer Services.  “Council has recognized the importance of CiB by allocating a budget line item over the past two years and has also supported initiatives through budget deliberations such as irrigation system upgrades that save repair time and water and have improved the quality of several of our parks”.

Communities in Bloom is a Canadian non-profit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement and the challenge of a provincial and national program, with focus on the promotion of green spaces in community settings.  The slogan of the Communities in Bloom organization is People, Plants and Pride all Growing Together.

In July and August, qualified volunteer judges visit participating communities and evaluate each one on its overall performance within the criteria mentioned. The evaluation is based on the local conditions and achievements of citizens, businesses, organizations, institutions and the municipal government working together towards common objectives.  So it is a dynamic program that inspires continual improvement.