Communities in Bloom contest eyes Western campus

The Western community sees the beauty of its campus every day. Now, the university has two days to let the rest of the country see it as well.

Next week, Communities in Bloom, a non-profit Canadian organization that aims to improve the visual appeal of the nation, returns to judge Western’s campus as part of the organization’s annual competition.

“We want to make the campus alive all year long,” said Jim Galbraith, grounds and recycling supervisor. “That’s what Communities in Bloom is all about – taking pride in and taking care of what you have.”


Judges Gérald Lajeunesse from Ottawa and Bruce Hay from Brampton will evaluate Western’s campus in the Special Attractions category. The visit is scheduled from noon Wednesday through Friday morning.

The Communities in Bloom program consists of communities being evaluated either provincially or nationally by a volunteer jury of trained professionals on the accomplishments of their entire community (municipal, private, corporate and institutional sectors, citizens) on eight key criteria: tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape, turf/groundcovers, floral displays and community involvement.

Members from all corners of the Western community will help show off campus to the judges from the Friends of the Gardens and EnviroWestern to retired media specialist Alan Noon and his knowledge of the university’s past or energy and environment manager Beverley Ayeni’s knowledge of its push for a sustainable future.

In 2004, Western took first place honours in the Parks and Grounds category of the organization’s annual awards, beating out Alberta’s Banff National Park and Okanagan University College in British Columbia. It was the first – and last – time Western entered the competition.

Now, with nearly a full new team in place, Galbraith thought it might be time to try again. And as judges prepare to come to campus next week, they will discover a completely new entity than the campus they toured nearly a decade ago.

The campus has grown substantially, but its beauty, Galbraith points out, remains a priority. In fact, he said, landscaping has become more than an afterthought as the campus grows and develops, and more of a requirement.

“I think people see the campus as a great working environment. It’s not just a concrete jungle like so many other places,” Galbraith said. “There’s a huge appreciation for the physical campus. And we work to sustain that.”

Established with the guidance of Britain in Bloom, Tidy Towns of Ireland and Villes et Villages Fleuris de France, Communities in Bloom held its first edition in 1995. That year, 29 participating municipalities were honoured at the first awards ceremonies on Parliament Hill. The program now includes hundreds of communities across the country and an international challenge involving communities from the United States, Asia and several European countries allows participants to compete internationally.

The 2013 National Symposium on Parks and Grounds and Communities in Bloom Awards Ceremonies will be hosted by the National Capital Region, Ottawa-Gatineau on Oct. 23-26.

Galbraith remains confident that this campus, and the passion those who call it home have for it, will speak for itself come next week.

“We just need to show the judges what we do and how we feel about this place,” he said.