Visionary volunteers can make city #8216;bloom#8217;

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 26, 2007

A handful of community leaders want Ironton to stop and smell the roses — and tulips and lilies and violets and more — when it comes to downtown beautification.

The nearby city of Gallipolis is beautiful and blooming, so why can’t Ironton?

Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce, and approximately 20 other businessmen and women with a vested interest in Ironton hit the road last week to try to answer that question.

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I was fortunate to be asked to go along for the ride.

What we saw was pretty amazing.

Gallipolis is in full bloom. OK, maybe not full bloom because it is late in the summer and the weather has been rough. Still, the downtown of the small city a third of Ironton’s size looked great.

Purple and white flower baskets hung on light posts. The park was filled with neatly maintained flowerboxes. Business owners and homeowners alike have joined in to take pride in their community and make it shine.

The city is part of the America in Bloom organization that encourages communities to focus on beautification and community involvement with a little friendly competition tossed in for good measure.

The program seems like exactly the type of thing that Ironton needs to energize its residents and spark an interest in civic pride.

“Ironton is a great river town with a proud heritage.

The America in Bloom program is a framework and set of tools for our residents to take pride in their community and bring that pride to the street’s edge for all to see,” Dingus said.

America in Bloom is not some miracle funding source or a magical helper that comes in and does the work. The non-profit organization simply offers guidelines and ideas and then allows a city to compete against others in a variety of categories.

For a small entry fee, the organization offers some advice and then provides a top-to-bottom analysis of what the entire city is doing well in terms of beautification and what it can do better. This type of study alone is worth the price of admission — and then some.

The whole goal is to promote community involvement and make the areas better places to live.

Talk about civic pride. Gallipolis has it and the hard work of a handful of volunteers and a variety of partnering agencies has paid off.

Gallipolis was a national winner in its first year and that has sparked the community to really embrace this honor and look to build upon it.

If Ironton had the program in place it could help boost tourism and make the city more marketable for economic development leaders.

Dingus said he would love to see an America in Bloom river towns’ tour from Marietta through Ironton and beyond.

The keys to starting a program like this are volunteers and commitment from other agencies including civic clubs, church groups, businesses and the local government agencies.

“Those that went yesterday share a love for Ironton with thousands of others that can unite to help our community bloom,” Dingus said. “In addition to the direct value to Ironton, this new look will assist all those that are involved in promoting our community as a great place to work, play, and live, to have greater success in that effort.”

Do you love Ironton? We need you. Do you want to make this city look its best all the time? We need you. Do you want to restore the lost sense of pride in the entire community? We need you. Contact Dingus or me for more information.

If Gallipolis can do it, so can Ironton.

This trip planted the seed. It is up to the rest of us to water it and make Ironton bloom.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at