AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

October 10, 2012

Beautifying the borough

Back from Ark., locals plan to work harder

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock in Bloom didn't take home any top awards at the national America in Bloom symposium, but the experience has encouraged the group to work even harder to continue to beautify the borough.

"We were so fortunate to actually be recognized for what we did well," said Slippery Rock in Bloom co-chair Judy Hughes, who attended the event, held Sept. 20 through 22 in Fayetteville, Ark.

Hughes is the former president of the Slippery Rock Rotary Club, which signed on the borough to the America in Bloom program in 2010.

"I just think it's so worthwhile. I believe in it," she said of the national awards program.

America in Bloom is a nonprofit organization that promotes beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.

This past year was Slippery Rock's first time participating and the all-volunteer group has planted 5,000 red tulip bulbs downtown, set up decorative urns with a variety of plants, held recycling and clean-up events, spruced up common areas like Slippery Rock Community Park and more.

The symposium, which included 27 towns from across the country, netted them a plaque for historical preservation and nominations for two other awards: Floral Displays and Use of Bold Foliage.

Hughes was proud and overjoyed to represent Slippery Rock in Bloom and show off what the town accomplished during its first year, and the group meets next at 10:30 a.m. today in the lower level of NexTier Bank, 121 S. Main St., Slippery Rock.

"I was jumping up and down," she said of when the nominations were announced.

Slippery Rock was up against towns in California and Florida, which have a big advantage because those areas can grow many things outside year-round, so the nominations alone were a great honor.

"We were just thrilled," Hughes said.

But she and Slippery Rock in Bloom members didn't really consider it a competition because the judges, who visited the area in June, rate each town on the volunteers' abilities to meet criteria in six overall categories: overall impression, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscapes and floral displays.

There's no winning or losing and the end result is a more attractive town enhanced by hard-working volunteers who are ready for the next project, Hughes said, adding group members have already met to review the judges' evaluation of Slippery Rock in Bloom.

"We need more volunteers to make the changes happen more quickly," she said of what she learned at the symposium and from the evaluation.

Each time an event is organized, the group has help from dozens of volunteers of all ages, including Slippery Rock University students and area business owners, but they always need more.

"Everybody has different talents, too," she said, adding the America in Bloom website has ideas for volunteers.

Someone might be good at drawing posters announcing a clean-up while others don't mind getting a little dirty, like sweeping the streets every Sunday morning, which Hughes has been doing by herself.

"It's definitely changed me," she said of how Slippery Rock in Bloom has made her more aware of her surroundings and what types of trees, plants and flowers will thrive.

Everyone can do something, even if it's just tidying up the sidewalk in front of their home or business or picking up litter, and encourage friends and family who garden as a hobby to come help, she said.

"I can't wait for us to be back at it again," she said of the projects that happen year-round.

And she knows things will go well under the leadership of Regina Greenwald, the Rotary's current president. Today's meeting will focus on what projects Slippery Rock in Bloom will be planning for the coming months and how to get their name out there even more.

"I was kind of a community salesperson in selling the town," Hughes said of the Slippery-Rock-themed display table she set up at the symposium.

"What's ahead of us is very exciting," she said.

Slippery Rock in Bloom will soon be mailing newsletters to borough residents and more information can also be found on the group's Facebook page.

To learn more about America in Bloom, visit www.americainbloom.org

Published Oct. 3, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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Judges critque Rock in Bloom's efforts

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer

The America in Bloom judges who visited the Slippery Rock area this June to assess the work Slippery Rock in Bloom completed released their evaluation on Monday.

The judges, Diane Clasen and Bill Hahn, offered advice and praise based on the area's climate and environmental conditions and the management, planning, maintenance, improvement and innovation on six categories: floral displays, landscapes, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.

Out of 1,000 possible points, Slippery Rock received 484 total. The judges congratulated the group and the Slippery Rock Rotary Club for their first year in the program.

The kickoff project of planting 5,000 red tulips was especially notable and the group's leaders are passionate and serious about promoting their community.

The judges' tour of the area revealed "treasures" including preserved buildings, YMCA/ARMCO Park, Slippery Rock Community Park, Slippery Rock University, the business district, Poplar Forest subdivision and a certified Audubon site.

They noted Slippery Rock Creek and the surrounding park that hosts the farmers market and the North Country Trail.

The judges suggest the 2013 North Country Trail celebration at SRU include an annual festival that "extols pioneer life west of the Alleghenies."

The group might also consider adding more flowers to certain areas and incorporate a plant exchange to generate community involvement and keep costs down.

"Additional color and variety is always positive," the judges said, adding the new urns were well-designed by co-chair Jeff Berta.

Businesses had "splendid floral displays" and the judges were "delighted" by the Slippery Rock Community Library's new herb garden, a great way to get kids involved.

Gateway Park greets visitors entering town on Route 108 and well-maintained waterfall and brick wall is a "Wow!" installation, the judges said.

Moss-covered planters in the alleys and around the murals downtown and the low-budget dog waste stations, kept up by business owner and Bloom member Sonya Lenz and others, are creative touches.

These amenities could be enhanced with shrubs, trees, perennials and ornamental grass. Certain plants can be used elsewhere to prevent erosion and weeds, direct foot traffic, reduce mowing and decrease noise pollution.

Expand the community garden as a teaching tool for residents to grow their own food, the excess going to the food bank, the judges said.

Play up YMCA/ARMCO Park because residents wrongly assume it's for YMCA members only. It's likely underutilized and could use some improvements to attract more visitors.

Further SRU's GPS campus tree survey to include programs that will produce work orders and histories and provide more information on green initiatives. A similar program could be done throughout the community.

Also, the borough, businesses and SRU should partner to educate residents about reducing, reusing and recycling; the use of rain barrels downtown was noted.

Retired SRU professor Gene Wilhelm is recording data of breeding birds in his Poplar Forest neighborhood as part of the second Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, one example of how the school is an environmental leader.

SRU and high school students could help the Slippery Rock Heritage Association, which has no headquarters; the group needs to brainstorm and fundraise to obtain a permanent home.

"Preserving your heritage should become part of the mindset of the community, beginning with the children and with the school system. Your heritage is more valuable than someone's profit," the judges said.

Keeping a tally of volunteer hours is useful when applying for grants and think of new ways to get residents involved, like pairing students with senior citizens who need help with yard work, holding contests, offering prizes or awards and approaching existing organizations to lend a hand.

Published Oct. 3, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.