Prince Rupert receives three blooms out of five in provincial competition

Prince Rupert scored 68 per cent on an evaluation of the city’s appearance conducted by judges with the Communities in Bloom program.

Prince Rupert scored 68 per cent on an evaluation of the city’s  appearance conducted by judges with the Communities in Bloom program.

The city was judged on its tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscaping and floral displays. On the program’s scoring system, this gives Prince Rupert three out of five “blooms,” the same score the town received when it last participated in 2008.  Rupert fell just four per cent short of getting four blooms, which was the score organizers were hoping for.

Communities in Blooms is a community beautification initiative based on similar and highly successful programs found in Europe. Essentially, the community puts on its best face and the program sends two judges to evaluate the community and point out areas for improvement.  The initiative has been around since 1995 but it wasn’t until 2008 that a group of residents (full disclosure: including our editor Shaun Thomas) brought the idea of participating to city council which endorsed the plan. Three years later, the city participated again in July.

Treena Decker, who represented all the volunteers who organized this year’s Communities in Bloom effort, reported the judges findings to council at their meeting last Tuesday and relayed recommendations for improvements.

Prince Rupert’s general tidiness was rated 114 out of 150. The judges were impressed by Rupertites’  concern for tidiness which is evident by the city’s general lack of litter even in industrial areas. This is credited to the daily pickup of garbage by the city but also to community initiatives such as the community clean-ups that many residents participate in.

Judges did notice, however, that the City needs to continue to enforce its  unsightly premises bylaws to force home and building owners to improve the appearance of their properties. They also recommend that weeds growing around the edges of buildings and  on the sidewalk need to be cleared out.  They also liked the Paint Prince Rupert initiative and encouraged the city to continue supporting it.

In environmental action, Prince Rupert scored a 87 out of 125. Judges where happy to see that the municipality’s vehicles now include more fuel efficient models, that the fish hatchery is in a partnership with schools, that the buses now use natural gas, the city’s purchase of a electric zamboni and by the work being done at the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Because of the poor soil quality here, the City is forced to buy from outside of town for various uses. The judges recommended that a composting program be started to make soil. This would be more environmentally friendly and it would save the City money. The City has already acted upon a recommendation that they start trash pick up at garbage cans on the Mount Hays road that were being emptied by volunteers from the fish hatchery. Judges also pointed out that the City has a water system that is much larger than what is required by the population and that the port’s program to provide electricity to docked ships in order to cut 4,000 tonnes a year in carbon emissions needs to be better publicized.

When it came Heritage Conservation, the judges were impressed and gave the city a rating of 123 out of 150. Judges were particularly impressed by the work done to preserve Pillsbury House and recommended that the City should keep it up. They thought that the 100-year anniversary was an excellent opportunity for building civic pride and recognizing the City’s heritage as is centennial quilt on display at the performing arts. They also liked the small touches, like having vintage photos in the pool at the civic centre.

The biggest recommendation from the judges was that more needs to be done to showcase the First Nations heritage of Prince Rupert, and that the City should continue working towards the opening of a proposed projects like Tsimshian Cultural Pavilion and the Metlakatla Trail.

Rupert got a fairly low evaluation was for urban forestry: 95 out of 175. While the judges realize that the city is surrounded by forest, it needs to do more to manage the greenery inside the City itself.  Judges liked the new addition of street trees in the downtown core, and also the work of the Prince Rupert Trail Committee which helps maintain walking trails.

Judges recommend that street plants be chosen in order to bring a new visual interest as season change. They also point out that the trees that have been planted need to be better taken care of with regular pruning. They also felt that the community should be showcasing trees and plants that are indigenous to the area and not planting ornamental trees like cherry.

The score for Prince Rupert’s landscaping was also rather low, scoring 124 out of 200. Judges liked the landscaping at Pillsbury House, but had very little else positive to say in the report. They point out that many residents and businesses have let their plant beds and flower boxes go unmaintained and have become grown-over. The judges would like those who own the boxes to clean them up to prevent the area from “looking abandoned and rundown.” They would also like to see rocks from the local quarry and bark from local log operations used in the landscaping as well as indigenous ferns and reeds incorporated into existing plant beds. The judges also suggested that they look into creating their own gardens to be used as an outdoor classroom.

In floral displays the judges gave Rupert a 117.75 out of 175. The judges were impressed with the pockets of floral displays located in areas around the city, saying it added pleasant “splashes of colour” to the community.  The judges also liked Annunciation School’s grade 6 project to beautify their schoolyard, as well as the hanging baskets some businesses have on display.

They suggest that Rupert look into starting an “Ethnobotony garden,” where indigenous plants could be grown with some interpretative signs telling people how the plants were used in First Nations culture.

The City’s total investment for all these suggestions was a mere $750. Councillors at the meeting were so impressed with the results that they asked Decker if the volunteers would be willing to do it again next year. Decker said she thought they would be, the idea was also put out that the money for it should be included as an expense in the city’s parks budget.