The city of Demopolis, Ala., joined America in Bloom in 2011. Barbara Blevins, a horticulturist and certified arborist for the city, got Demopolis involved because she knew it would be important for the community.
“I believe I was down at Mobile (Alabama) at the plant expo,” she says. “I saw some paperwork down there and I picked it up. I talked to the mayor about it and told him how much I thought it would be important for the city to get onboard with it, and in 2011, we were able to register for it.”
Since then, the people of Demopolis have put much more effort and time into keeping the city looking at its best. Volunteers and groups get together once a month to help keep the city clean. In the fall the community does a program called “Renew Our Rivers,” where they put up dumpsters by the river and people can come throw away trash, such as batteries and paint. In the spring, they have a similar program called “Renew Our City,” which happens a couple of months before the America in Bloom judges come to town.
“As long as we’ve got those programs going, I think that we can keep the city clean,” Blevins says.
The hard work is paying off. In 2011, the city won the award for best bloom in hanging baskets, and in 2012, it was recognized for its community heritage preservation.
“Back when I started six years ago, we only probably had a handful of flower beds,” Blevins says. “I just counted this morning, and we have 30 small concrete planters. We have 28 of the huge, really massive concrete planters on the street alone, and I think every corner you turn downtown and out on Highway 80.” The community also installed lights in the park and some alleyways to bring more life to the downtown district at night.
To keep community members motivated, Demopolis started handing out its own awards.
“I came up with five signs, Demopolis in Bloom, and we give out two home awards, two business awards – one on the highway and one in the downtown district – and we also recognize the churches in town,” Blevins says. “The main thing to me, I think, is recognizing the people, the residents and the businesses and ones that are really stepping out there and trying to help.”
The hype has even reactivated the community’s beautification committee, which hadn’t been active for the past few years. Currently it has 12 volunteer members.
“You’ve got more people now taking pride in their city,” she says. “I know one lady I worked with said ‘did you see that on Facebook?’ and several women came on there to say they were so proud to live in this little city.”
The author is assistant editor for Golf Course Industry.