Trail takes top spot in international competition

CiB judges rave city rocks, both figuratively and literally

Trail has reinvented itself as a sustainable, liveable city but hasn’t lost sight of its industrial roots, if its international win in the Communities in Bloom competition is any indication.

Dan Rodlie, chair of Trail Community in Bloom (CiB), is still in shock after returning from the 2015 National Symposium and Awards Ceremonies held in Kamloops this past weekend.

“I’m pretty surprised,” he admitted to the Times Monday. “We didn’t really expect it because you are competing against the top communities (internationally).”

The city took home a five-bloom rating and a bronze title, based on its score of 85.3 per cent in the medium category. Trail came out on top against fellow competitors Ahoghill, Northern Ireland, Estes Park, Colorado and Jasper and Stettler, Alta.

“It’s what we’ve been striving for, for many, many years,” added Rodlie. “This is the world championship in horticulture. This is the big one.”

Communities in Bloom is a non-profit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility, and beautification.

Trail has participated in the program since 2002. After running through the ranks of winning provincially and nationally, the city first set out for an international title back in 2007. After a few attempts, Trail CiB went back to the national stage for a win in 2010 before looking for international bragging rights in 2011. Five years at it, and the judges that evaluated the community this past summer were impressed.

“Trail is an industrial city that has clearly reinvented itself, celebrating its rock walls beauty that beautify and shore up properties and roads,” judges Lorna McIlroy and Ted Zarudny wrote.

“Also in the figurative sense, Trail rocks with vitality, energy and enthusiasm,” they continued. “The landscape and floral displays, the IncrEDIBLE Green Route, the historic murals and the Avenue of Clans are all assets that make the City of Trail truly (rock)!”

Rodlie has been involved since the start of the local program, which was initially brought forward by Dale Andrews and Mary Martin. He believes in the program but says it’s up to the citizens to decide how far the smelter community has come.

“It’s like hiring a consultant at $40,000 to $50,000 every year to come in and judge your community, how you live, but not just flowers,” he said. “Flowers is less than 10 per cent of the score.”

Participating communities are evaluated on the overall contributions of municipal council and departments; industry; business and the private sector, including volunteer efforts, in regards to tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape and floral displays.

The judges like that Trail CiB revisits recommendations, notably mentioning the city’s adopted stairs, graffiti removal efforts (Graffiti Grannies), and its move from changing out flower beds for more sustainable mixtures. But the city did not score well in youth involvement, an area Rodlie said needs to be addressed.

“We toured every park that (Kamloops) has, and it was unbelievable to see what they’ve done there,” he said. “They just built a longboard skate park down a hillside.”

Gina Ironmonger’s presentation on the incrEDIBLE trail was well received from the international crowd.

The event was full of surprises, as all competitors didn’t find out how they scored until the official award ceremony rolled out the red carpet.

“It’s like going to the Oscars,” said Rodlie. “It’s probably the best-kept secret because the judges know where everyone scored.

“They print a magazine up a month before, all the staff knows everything but there is not one person that has any idea how they’ve scored.”

Horticulture tourism is one of the fastest growing attractions, he said, and Trail and its neighbouring community Castlegar have much to celebrate.

“We have two communities now Castlegar and Trail that have both won the world championship back to back, we won this year, and they won last year,” he explained. “There’s no other cities in North America that are that close together that have both won the world championships. That’s huge! And that on its own should be put together as a tourist destination package.”

Rodlie is set to make a presentation to city council next week. The city will be invited to participate in the grand championship, for international winners, should council decide to continue to back the program they provided $110,000 to this year.