The Herald-Leader recently reported on Lexington’s Five Bloom rating and other awards from the America in Bloom National Awards Program.
This rating means that the city government, businesses, schools and citizen groups collectively earned an “A” on six measures of the beauty of public spaces: not only for flowers, landscapes and trees but also for environmental sustainability, historic preservation and overall impression.
To participate, we submitted a community profile with information collected by volunteer leaders in all six areas. Most of these leaders experienced “ah-ha” moments on learning of accomplishments in areas other than their own. These moments were often accompanied by a rush of civic pride that we live in such a vibrant and beautiful city.
We believe the community profile to be a unique contribution to the fabric of our community life and invite you to read and decide for yourself on our website: http://www.aiblexingtonky.org/profiles.
The profile reports all the programs and projects we could find sponsored by city government, businesses, schools and citizen groups in each of the six areas. It also reports the cumulative hours spent by volunteers on projects in these six areas — 22,000 hours contributed by 2.200 volunteers spent beautifying Lexington in 2015. Bravo!
However, we believe this to be an incomplete estimate and will continue efforts to update this number.
After we submitted the profile in April to the national organization, we prepared for the site visit in late June. The judges work in pairs and are seasoned professionals in fields related to the six areas, often landscape architects, who volunteer their time. The organization pays their travel and we pay for lodging and meals.
Based on the profile, we show them as much of Lexington’s “beauty assets” as time allows. They take copious notes and photographs and meet with community leaders. With an outsider’s eye they see not only what we show them, they see more, including eyesores or failings we have not noticed or live with. They provide feedback on those, too.
There is no requirement that we implement any recommendation. Their extensive report has many unsolicited compliments as well, including this one:
“Lexington’s distinct ‘brand’ is recognizable whether one approaches from the air or the roadways. The wisdom of establishing the nation’s first Urban Growth Boundary, enacted in 1958, coupled with the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program protecting farms from development have clearly distinguished this city in a positive way and are perhaps its greatest and most valuable assets. The resulting acreage of open green space surrounding the city distinguishes Lexington as a forward–thinking community that values its agricultural heritage as a primary component of its brand. Protecting its brand and quality of life has become and should remain a top priority.”
Why do this? We are a large city with a multitude of aesthetic, environmental and historic assets. It is difficult at times to see the big picture, especially so for newcomers. We represent that big picture.
We hope our efforts enable more citizens to feel civic pride and want to help make Lexington an even more beautiful and vibrant place to live and work. The profile highlights many organizations and projects which welcome your time, interest and talent.
Ann Garrity is president of America in Bloom Lexington, Inc.