BELPRE - Volunteers with the Belpre in Bloom program are gearing up for their biggest week as national judges will be visiting Thursday and Friday to look at the what the citywide beautification projects have accomplished.
"We are very excited to have the judges here," said program coordinator Leslie Pittenger. "We have done a lot of thing the judges we saw last year recommended and can't wait to show off our city."
This is the second year for the program that encourages beautification and cleanup projects throughout the city, not just planting flowers.
The projects for this year's program included community garden located 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 was 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.
"A lot has happened this year and we are very proud of what we have accomplished," said Pittenger, who is also the city auditor.
This year's volunteers also maintained last year's projects that included planting beds and welcome signs at the five entrances into the city, hanging baskets and general cleanup.
The number of volunteers increased this year as not only did school children become involved, but also individuals of all ages and groups, including Boy Scout Troop 19 of Little Hocking, which helped with the fire hydrants project.
All 312 of the hydrants had old paint and rust removed and painted sky blue while between 50 and 100 will be more decorative with vines and flowers added. Pittenger estimates that each hydrant took an hour-and-a-half to two hours to be refinished.
"We have had a lot of interest about the program this year," she said. "A lot of people have called and asked if the hydrants in their neighborhoods are being painted and what they can do to be involved."
One thing Pittenger and Mayor Mike Lorentz have asked Belpre residents to do is to clean and tidy their property for the judges.
"We are asking people to mow and trim their lawns and just make it neat," Pittenger said. "We plan to take the judges into residential areas this year because there has been so much interest in the project."
As part of the America in Bloom program, judges Billy Butterfield of Orlando, Fla., and Evelyn Alemanni, of Elfin Forest, Calif., will tour the city and judge the beautification and other projects done by the program this summer and will be looking at community involvement and other aspects to decide the city's rating.
The judges' comments and scores could help the city win recognition during the America in Bloom Symposium and Awards in Orlando, Fla., in September.
"I think there is a lot of excitement in the community for this project," Pittenger said. "You can just see that people are happy to be a part of something positive."