Gardeners offer Belpre praise

BELPRE – The second year of the Belpre in Bloom program received a boost with positive comments from the two master gardeners who judged the city this week for the umbrella program America in Bloom.

Judges Evelyn Alemanni and Billy Butterfield attended a luncheon Friday at the Belpre Senior Center where they had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Belpre in Bloom organizers and volunteers.

“You all did a fantastic job,” said Alemanni, a nationally recognized gardener from Elfin Forest, Calif. “The community, character and spirit makes Belpre a wonderful, sweet community.”

Butterfield, a landscape manager from Orlando, Fla., said what the Belpre in Bloom program and its projects have done for the city is “awesome.”

“It is amazing what has been accomplished by (project coordinator Leslie Pittenger) and the volunteers in two short years,” Butterfield added.

Belpre in Bloom includes local master gardeners and volunteers, individuals and organizations including the Belpre Woman’s Club and the city garden club. For its second year, the program worked on projects that included the community garden on Blennerhassett Avenue near the city’s water treatment plant; the planting of 50 American chestnut trees and creation of a memorial tree park; cleaning and painting the city’s fire hydrants; and creating planting beds from old vehicle tires.

The planting beds of old tires were a project with students at Belpre Elementary and High schools who cleaned and painted the donated tires. The brightly painted objects have since been stacked and arranged as planters and dividers throughout the city’s parks.

Pittenger, who is also the city auditor, said the judges were wonderful to spend time with and get to know as she and other representatives showed off Belpre.

“We have driven through a lot of neighborhoods and everybody has stepped up and cleaned up their yards and really gotten involved in Belpre in Bloom this year,” she said. “It is really great to see the participation grow.”

The volunteer-based local project is part of the larger America in Bloom, a charitable organization to promote nationwide beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.

“Everything you have done has made a difference in the appearance and perception of Belpre,” Alemanni told the luncheon attendees. “Belpre has been a really remarkable place experience for Billy and me to visit.”

Alemanni and Butterfield were in Belpre Thursday and Friday to tour the city and see what has been done for the project. The local efforts will be put up against the other 26 communities in 19 states for awards. Belpre is in the same category (population of 4,001-7,000) and competing against three other communities – Estes Park, Colo.; Greendale, Ind.; and The University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio. The awards will be given out in September during the America in Bloom Educational Symposium and Awards Program in Orlando, Fla..