The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 5, 2012

Tarboro begins prepping for America In Bloom

Staff Writer

TARBORO — Making Tarboro a better community was the topic of an America in Bloom (AIB) organizational meeting Thursday evening. This is the second year of AIB competition for the community.

“Our only goal is to make communities better,” said AIB head judge Jack Clasen during the meeting at Calvary Church Parish House. AIB is a non-profit organization that promotes “nationwide beautification through education and community involvement.” After 11 years of judging towns for AIB, Clasen can get a sense of what he calls the “essence” of a town in just a couple of days.

“I think Tarboro’s a great town. You’ve got a great future ahead of you,” said Clasen.

In the September AIB competition, Tarboro was nominated for three awards — landscaped areas, old town cemetery on Saint James Street and best community garden, the Saint David Street vegetable garden.

“Just to be nominated is absolutely terrific,” Clasen said.

Candis Owens coordinated Tarboro’s first AIB competition.

“It’s been a wonderful ride. It’s been a learning experience,” Owens said. Her hope is that AIB will help draw the attention of town residents to Tarboro’s assets.

“We have a wonderful community. We just see it all the time and we just take it for granted,” Owens said.

Tarboro and Charlotte are the only North Carolina communities to have competed in AIB, which has drawn approximately 200 from 40 states since its founding in 2001. Towns compete against other towns in their population category.

Tarboro’s AIB participation also brought out-of-town attention to the community, as representatives of a number of Eastern North Carolina communities were invited to attend the organizational meeting. Brian Roth, mayor of Plymouth, attended and gleaned ideas about bringing a delegation to next year’s competition, set for September in Orlando.

“Tarboro’s a beautiful community already, but all communities can do better,” Roth said, noting he is particularly impressed with the historic and business districts. “This is an opportunity to take a look at all segments of the community and see what areas of the community need a little more attention so all areas can sparkle and pop.”

Clasen’s advice to Tarboro was to come up with a strategy for next year’s competition. The only question that remained was whether or not Tarboro wanted to commit to entering the upcoming competition.

“I think with the support of the city council, we’d be foolish not to pursue it,” Owen said. By a show of hands, the decision was unanimous. Owen, a member of the town council, had garnered support for the project from other community leaders at the recently held council retreat.

“What we do for ourselves [as a town] will be the prize,” said Buddy Hooks, one of the tour guides for the AIB judges last year.

Each AIB community is judged in six categories – floral displays, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression. Tarboro received its best scores in landscaped areas (102 out of 175 points) and heritage preservation (93 out of 175 points). An area in need of improvement is urban forestry, where Tarboro received 66 out of 175 points.  Another area Clasen mentioned that needs improvement is youth involvement.

“I’d like to see us really work on our youth programs next year,” Owens said.

Several positive things have resulted from the AIB competition, said Owens. Town manager Alan Thornton is considering the formation of a town appearance committee as well as Tarboro’s potential involvement in Tree City USA, which recognizes unique trees in the community. Additionally, the competition drew attention to the broken benches at the Blount-Bridgers House, which are in the process of being cleaned and re-conditioned, Owens said.

Owens’ goal is to form a steering committee of 15 active community members to begin working on strategies for the upcoming competition.