Judges evaluate Belpre in Bloom

Judges from America in Bloom are visiting Belpre to evaluate the efforts of the Belpre in Bloom beautification program. From left are AIB judges Ed Hooker and Jack Clasen, Marietta in Bloom member Cindy Brown, Belpre in Bloom chair Leslie Pittenger and Bill Harpold, past commander of American Legion Post 495. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

BELPRE — A pair of judges from the America in Bloom national beautification program are visiting Belpre to review and evaluate the efforts of the Belpre in Bloom program.

Ed Hooker and Jack Clasen were visiting various locations and projects in Belpre on Monday and today with Leslie Pittenger, chair of Belpre in Bloom and auditor for the city of Belpre.

The two judges were joined by Cindy Brown, of Marietta. Brown is a member of Marietta in Bloom and is spending her first summer as an AIB judge. She was accompanying Hooker and Clasen to gain experience, she said.

Belpre in Bloom has been participating in the AIB program for seven years, undertaking a variety of projects and working with individuals and groups on beautification efforts in Belpre.

The judges are evaluating Belpre’s efforts in the areas of overall impression, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, landscaped areas, urban forestry and floral displays in the municipal, commercial and residential sectors. A criteria added this year is called community vitality and looks at programs, events and projects that a community has to get people outside and active.

On Monday, the judges visited Belpre’s entranceways, along with churches, parks, neighborhoods, businesses and historical sites like the Farmers Castle Museum and Cedarville Cemetery. The tours and visits are scheduled to continue today.

Hooker is historic architect with the National Cemetery Administration of the Veterans Administration. He has been involved in AIB for 10 years, including the last eight as a judge. Clasen is a master gardener and community volunteer who has been judging for AIB for 17 years.

“So far it looks like a nice community,” Hooker said of their impressions of Belpre on Monday morning, although there was still a day and a half of visiting to do.

The two judges visit cities of various sizes and believe those of medium size generally have the most enthusiasm, a combination of a larger volunteer base and a small enough community to allow changes and improvements to be more visible and apparent to the residents and visitors.

“I find there is a lot more community involvement and a lot more impact in the smaller communities than there is in the larger cities,” Clasen said. “I have found that somewhere in that 5,000 to 20,000 (population) range, I’ve found that’s where the biggest impact seems to be with the American in Bloom program.”