Communities in Bloom Blog
Communities in Bloom Blog #4: Tour Recap
Well, the judge’s tour of Brockville has been completed, and after 3-days of activities, we are proud to say that this year’s judges were thoroughly impressed with everything our community had to offer!
The festivities officially started on Tuesday afternoon with a tour of the Aquatarium, the judges were both amazed with all of the exhibits that make up the specimen, as well as the integration of the St. Lawrence River species included in the exhibits themselves. Next, we held the reception for the judges at Tall Ships landing, where they were introduced to CIB committee members, award winners, volunteers, and various other people who are passionate about improving our community, and were given a brief presentation on important pieces of Brockville that were not a part of the following day’s tour. The reception was also a perfect time for our committee to hand out “Benny Awards” to both the residential, and business gardens of the year, as well as a volunteer award to acknowledge the efforts of people helping to beautify our city, and strengthen Communities in Bloom in Brockville. Tuesday night was capped off by a dinner with the Mayor, the head of both our CIB committee and Beautification committee, as well as sponsors from Green Things, and Downtown Brockville.
Wednesday morning started off with breakfast at Bud’s on the Bay, ensuring the judges and ourselves would be properly fueled for the packed itinerary ahead of us. We first showed the judges the new railway garden (located at the south end of the tunnel) and we brought in Doug Smith to explain to them the heritage ties between this replica garden, and the garden from Brockville’s original train station.
We then toured down across Blockhouse Island to the Sabre jet, and we met up with Dave Sheridan who explained the history behind the jet, and the restoration that he had just finished. Mr. Sheridan stayed with the group while we walked to Centeen Park and talked about the process behind the underwater sculpture garden, and its additions over the years, as well as giving our judges some additional information about the SOS program (Save Ontario Shipwrecks).
The next step in the tour consisted of stopping at the Collett Surveying parking garage to admire the street art, and give our judges a bit of information about the history of the building. While on our way there, we walked along King Street, and pointed out some of the historic buildings, and informed our judges of some addition facts about Brockville’s most historic street.
Following the King Street stretch was a quick stop at City Hall, followed by a walk-by of both the Tourism Office, and the Aqua Garden on Water Street. These quick stops consisted of pointing out the refurbished areas, and the new innovations that are on the way (specifically at the Tourism Office) while still sticking to our itinerary.
From Water Street we ventured on down to Hang-Ups Creative Picture Framing to meet up with the Chair of the Communities in Bloom Brockville committee. The stop was quick but informative, Anne provided the judges with information about the building, garden, and even some of the business’ projects. Anne stuck with the group while we walked along the Brock Trail, through Hardy Park, providing additional historical and informative facts for our judges about the area.
Escaping from the heat for our next stop, we were treated to a tour of the Brockville Museum, and it was an incredible experience. Peggy was an amazing guide, and gave our judges a plethora of valuable information and historic facts about our community (and the surrounding area). The judges were in awe of the new exhibit about Brockville’s historic architecture that is located on the main floor, and they loved the automobile section as well.
Next on the docket was meeting up with John Taylor (a member of the Brock Trail committee) to speak with our judges about the innovations made to the trail in the last year, as well as future plans that the committee has in store for Brockville. He met us at the museum and walked along with the group down to Rotary Park, sharing more details about the new lights on the bridge, pedestrian crosswalks that are being installed, and some details about the ongoing expansion of the trail from Laurier Boulevard to Centennial Road.
From Rotary Park the group travelled to the Community Garden (located in the same lot as the Gord Watts Building) and enjoyed a fabulous lunch that was prepared by garden members, as well as getting a tour of the composting site by the Public Works foreman Chad. The judges were pleased to hear about the compost being used more in the city as they stated last year “the quality of the compost in second to none.”
After lunch, Chad and his crew treated the group to a quick boat tour around some of the city owned Islands, providing the judges with some information about the islands, and what each one was primarily used for and their capacities. The judges were pleased with the sights from the water, with Ron stating that “the view from the water is so incredible, it really gives you a different perspective of the beauty Brockville has when you can see it as a whole”. Doreen added “it was a wonderful way to spend an hour, and it couldn’t have been a nicer day to participate in such an activity.”
The group’s next stop was to meet up with the city’s horticulturalist team of Meredith and Ken. They discussed the different flower choices each year, the process of maintaining them and replacing them each season, as well as providing our judges with some additional tips/tricks to use in their own gardens. The meet-up was at the top of Courthouse Avenue, naturally, so our judges could receive all of this information with one of the most scenic, and well maintained landscaped areas in the city, as well as getting to take a look at the churches and Courthouse located at the top of the street.
From the Courthouse we travelled to the Brockville Public Library where the CEO Emily was waiting to meet our judges. She filled them in on different programs that the Library is currently running, and programs that they are hoping to launch in the near future. The judges were impressed that the library was working with local kids to form a garden. “Getting youth involved is always a great step. It gives the kids a chance to learn about things they won’t usually get the chance to learn about in schools” stated Doreen, who was particularly impressed with the garden program at the library.
Our next stop was CIB Brockville’s new pride and joy; the parkette culinary garden. The judges were blown away with the improvements that were made since last year, and were extremely excited about the idea of a free culinary garden in the city. We discussed the process of the transition from last year’s flag to the raised beds, the watering/picking of the plants, and how much of an achievement this truly is to our city. They were particularly impressed with the use of heritage tomato plants, and the diversity of the produce that was installed, specifically the Nasturtiums.
After the parkette, we took the judges out to the Brockville cemetery where we met up with the head groundskeeper Dale. The group was amazed with all of the hard work that gets put into the property to make sure it is in tip-top shape at all times. “With a property that large, it’s amazing that they are able to properly manage it. That is at least a week of maintenance for the lawn alone, the staff really do an incredible job. The fact that they were able to integrate the waterfront in with the property shows just how much planning goes into this incredible property.” Said Ron.
Next up on the itinerary was travelling up to St. Lawrence College and connecting with the Brock Trail. The group walked along the trail all the way up to the Pat Beasley Fields on Laurier Boulevard, discussing everything from tree plantings, to the numbering of the fields along the way. The judges were impressed with the maintenance of the fields, the trail, and they loved the fact that the space between the street and the parking lot is transitioned into a rink in the winter time. We informed the judges further on the expansion plans for the trail, and showed them the site where construction has already begun (on both the Laurier and Centennial side of the trail)
From Laurier Boulevard we ventured out to the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area, and met up with dedicated volunteers who gave us additional information about the area. We started at the tree nursery, discussing future plans about a greenhouse on site, while the judges took in the beautiful area. From there we travelled onto the workshop and the north side of the reservoir to really show our judges the beauty of the area. The volunteers shared amazing information about the history of the wildlife area, as well as some of the programs that they have running for summer/offseason when the school groups aren’t exploring.
With all of the touring that went on since the community garden, it was time to re-fuel before our last stop of the night. The group had an exceptional meal from Boboli, with a breathtaking view of the river from the backside of Fulford Mansion where the meal took place. We took the judges on a quick tour of the Fulford garden, and had a nice break from the heat under the shade while we enjoyed our meals.
The last stop of the Wednesday tour was the most anticipated; the Brockville Railway Tunnel. Jack Kenney of the Brockville Railway Tunnel committee met the group at the south entrance of the tunnel, and provided us all with interesting information about the origin and development since the city bought the rights to it years ago. We walked the full length up and back, and both judges were amazed with what they were experiencing. Mr. Kenney also filled our judges in on the potential plans for the North entrance of the tunnel, specifically connecting the Brock Trail to both ends of the tunnel.
We met up again with the judges on Thursday morning at 9:00am and treated them to breakfast at one of downtown’s most famous restaurants; Tait’s Bakery. There was further discussion about other important pieces of Brockville that weren’t covered on the tour the previous day, and questions answered that the judges had thought of after Wednesday’s tour had concluded.
The final stop of the judge’s tour was at the Brockville Farmers market, where Rob (the market manager) met our judges and toured them around the different vendors spread across Market Street. Both of the judges seemed to love the atmosphere the market created, and even had room to sample out some of the foods there, “it was a great way to wrap up a fantastic tour” stated Doreen.
We couldn’t be happier with the way the tour went, from start to finish the judge’s seemed to be enjoying everything that Brockville had to offer, and although the results won’t be available to us until later this year, I think it’s a safe bet to make that our score has improved from last year’s. We would like to thank all of the volunteers again who donated their time to be a part of the tour, and to all of the people who helped make the tour happen behind the scenes that weren’t able to meet our judges. Even though the tour is over, Communities in Bloom Brockville is still going to be working just as hard to improve Brockville even further, so be sure to keep checking out our page and blogs to see what our next project is!