America in Bloom judges complete visit Tuesday

Published 11:54 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

For the past two days, judges from America in Bloom, a non-profit that conducts community competitions, were in town touring Ironton with Ironton in Bloom and seeing all it has to offer.

This marked the third year the national organization has been to Ironton, and looks at six different criteria that the city is judged on.

“We’re looking at floral displays, landscape areas, urban forestry, environmental initiatives, heritage preservation and overall impression,” America in Bloom judge Kristen Pategas, of Florida, said. “For each of the six criteria, we look at what the municipality does, what the businesses do and what the residents and the community do for the environment. It’s not only the appearance of the city, but how the city is working as a whole.”

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Although the complete evaluation won’t be available for the city until the end of July, Pategas said she was particularly impressed with the floral displays and the community involvement that she has seen since arriving Monday.

“I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of pots and hanging baskets downtown and how everyone comes together and works together to improve Ironton,” Pategas said. “Everyone is so proud of their community and loves having the opportunity to show off what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

The other judge was Leslie Pittenger, of Belpre.

“Ironton is a very clean city,” she said. “They take great pride in the streets and sidewalks.”

Pittenger added that she was impressed with the city’s re-use of properties, pointing out the Ironton City Center in the same building as an old J.C. Penney.

The tours covered the Ro-Na Theater, spray park, riverfront, Little League field, sewer and water plants, flood wall, Ohio University Southern, the city’s pocket parks, Woodland Cemetery and Gateway Center.

Each community taking part in America in Bloom is based on population that determines communities that you’re competing against.

This year, Ironton is taking on Morro Bay, California, Lawrenceburg, Ketucky and Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Both judges said after reading the reports from the organizations previous two visits in 2008, the first year of Ironton in Bloom, and 2010, each time has steadily improved.

“When you read the community profile from 2010, this year was a lot better,” Pittenger said. “There’s a number of things that have happened since then.”

Carol Allen, president of Ironton in Bloom, said the group has learned more and more each time, and is happy to have steadily improved.

“When we first started out, we decided we should do one thing and do it well, and we went floral,” Allen said. “Two years later, my goal was to do better and we made an incremental jump. We want the community to grow, not just Ironton in Bloom.”

In the days and weeks leading up to the visit, Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith said the city worked with Ironton in Bloom to prepare for the judges.

“Our city workers teamed up with Ironton in Bloom, going through and preparing the city, cleaning it up, cutting weeds, trimming trees, painting street lines,” Keith said. “I’m encouraged to have outsiders come in and take advantage of some of our assets.”