Competing internationally for the first time, Stettler has been ranked as one of the top contenders in the Communities in Bloom competition.
In the international honours announced last week, the Stettler entry won the national outstanding achievement award for landscaping and earned a special mention for its network of walking paths.
“We received five blooms and a rounded average score of 84 per cent,” said Rob Spencer, who chairs the Heartland Beautification Committee and Communities in Bloom for the Town of Stettler.
“International competition has harder judging, so I was happy to stay pretty close to the past scores.”
St. Martins Parish, Guernsey, Channel Islands, was selected as the winner.
Spencer said Stettler was among “lots of great competition,” which included nearby Forestburg, as well as Trail (B.C.), Gibbons (Alta.), Assiniboia (Sask.), Neepawa (Man.), Killarney/Turtle Mountain (Mand), Fogo (N.L.), Aya Town, Japan, and Smrzice, Czech Republic.
“I think the five blooms and the award shows the commitment the Heartland Beautification Committee has towards this community and should be commended for their efforts,” said Mayor Dick Richards.
“For Stettler to be recognized year after year by Communities in Bloom is a great achievement.”
Richards also lauded residents for catching the community spirit.
“All you have to do is drive around town and see at the pride residents have for Stettler,” he said.
For the outstanding achievement award for landscape, Stettler beat two other finalists and many other applicants from across Canada, regardless of population of the community.
“I’d like to recognize the efforts of our community, our residents, our volunteers, our town administrators and staff towards making Stettler a great place to live,” Spencer said.
“It isn’t the work of one person or department that gets things done — it is everyone collectively caring.”
Stettler’s five-bloom certificate and landscape award will be placed in the town office.
Stettler scored higher in the landscape award than the Alberta applicants of the Regional Municipal of Wood Buffalo and Athabasca for that award.
“It is very big,” Spencer said.
“We were also one of three finalists for the environmental-action award.”
The awards are judged on individual applications outlining work toward the criteria for each award, and are judged by judges other than those who visit the communities involved.
Even at the international level, Stettler remains high in its standards to beautify the community, Spencer said.
“Stettler has received five blooms in the national competition for the last five years and has shown continuous improvement every year.
“We received many positive comments from our judges, including their recognition of the walking/bike pathways and other initiatives.”
Spencer further credited the community for supporting the local program.
“We will continue to compete in this program, as we gain incredible insights into improving our community in ways that we might not think of,” he said.
After their evaluation of the community in late July, volunteer judges Lorna McIlroy and Diana Weiner gave high praise to the Heart of Alberta, which serves as a regional hub for east-central Alberta.
“More than a tenth of the town’s total area is devoted to parks and environmental spaces,” they reported.
“Extensive pathways crisscross and connect the many green spaces, and the pathways are being expanded annually. Pathways have grass borders and trees are planted alongside for interest and beauty, with garbage cans and benches regularly positioned.
“The residents of Stettler were observed walking the paths from dawn to dusk. The mission of the Heartland Beautification Committee is Keeping Stettler Clean and Green.”
The judges wrote that Stettler’s walking paths contribute to a “clean, green and healthy” community.
“Communities in Bloom is a national organization dedicated to the promotion of green spaces in community settings,” they said in their report. “Within the actual context of climate changes and environmental concerns, communities involved in the program can be proud of their efforts, which provide real and meaningful environmental solutions and benefit all of society.”
During the awards celebrations in Edmonton, Spencer valued the opportunity to meet people from other communities and learn what they do.
“I also had a chance to visit with some of our past judges, and they were very positive about the direction we are going and the strength of the efforts of our town departments and committees,” he said.
“Our continued excellence is a tribute to the ongoing efforts of our town staff, volunteer committees and organizations and individual residents.”
Over the coming months, the committee hopes to review the complete evaluations and plan strategies to improve for next year.