The notion of beautification, improved environmental stewardship, and an improved focus on tourism began in the late spring of 2013 when the Mayor of West Columbia (Laurie Kincannon) approached a member of the community (Sam Stamport) with a grant opportunity from Texas New Mexico Power (TNMP). The grant was approved. The TNMP Discovery Garden was the result. It is located in the northeast corner of First Capitol Park near the pond. First Capitol Park is located near the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site (1300 N 13th).
The vision of the TNMP Discovery Garden was that it would be used as a model for Phase I of a larger botanical garden/arboretum to be planted in the park. The Discovery Garden is a model for community involvement to improve the overall beautification of the City of West Columbia. It was the beginning of what has become a community-wide effort we named Columbia Blooms. It is our local name for the national America in Bloom program. The scope of Columbia Blooms includes West Columbia, East Columbia, the Varner-Hogg State Historic Site, and the site of Stephen F. Austin's death.
In December of 2014 a presentation was made to Susan & Peter Conaty, the Mayor and City Manager, and the Lions Club. On January 7, 2015 Dr. Charlie Hall, president of America in Bloom and professor at Texas A&M made a presentation to the Rotary and a group of interested citizens. Also in January a presentation was made to the Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of the Library. On January 21 the first official America in Bloom meeting occurred. In February of 2015 the West Columbia Economic Development Corporation approved $500 to help defray the $899 entry fee for America in Bloom. Presentations were made to Beta Sigma Phi (Columbia Lakes) and the American Legion. The name Columbia Blooms was adopted out our second official meeting on February 4. The First Capitol Study Club, Chamber of Commerce, Chesney's, Donna Loggins, the Rotary, the Garden Club, Louise Fenoglio,and the City of West Columbia have all contributed funds or services or equipment or plants.Bob Barta Lumber and Columbia Heritage Foundation, and the Masons have made pledges. We now have around 40 people on our email list.
America in Bloom is about much more than beautification. It encompasses beautification as well as improved civic pride when community volunteers become engaged. The program encompasses Floral Displays, Landscaped Areas, Urban Forestry, Environmental Efforts, Heritage Preservation, and Overall Impression. See www.americainbloom.org for much more information. America in Bloom envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play – benefiting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.
Flowers, shrubs, and trees beautify and help draw customers to shopping districts and reduce shopper stress. They boost apartment and commercial building occupancy rates, increase revenue for tourism, create local jobs, and increase property values. They even reduce costs of street repairs from reduced temperatures due to shade. Plants enhance civic pride. They sequester carbon (to reduce the impact of Global Warming), generate oxygen, attract wildlife, enhance biodiversity, offset heat islands, reduce air, noise, and glare pollution. Plants mitigate soil erosion and storm water runoff, minimize wind damage (this is important for us since we are vulnerable to hurricanes), reduces energy use, and boosts the economy.
Peer-reviewed research has documented that plants improve people’s ability to concentrate in the work environment. Children learn faster and are less distracted in flower and plant-filled environments. Flowers have even been documented to reduce stress levels and hypertension and to ease the effects of ADD.
The Arbor Day Foundation reports that trees increase property values by 15%, scrub the air of pollutants, produce oxygen, and provide shelter for wildlife.
Shade trees cool homes and neighborhoods. Trees on the north side of homes lower heating bills by providing a wind break. Fruit trees provide food.
The Houston Area Urban Forestry Council reports that trees on the east, west, & south sides of buildings cut cooling costs by 50%.
Want to be a part of this project? Volunteers are the life-blood of this project. In addition to folks who tend plants we need administrators, artists, financial wizards, fundraisers, publicists, and more. If you love plants, but don't have a green thumb please consider all the opportunities. Volunteers are trained to tend plants properly. They adopt a planting or part of a planting and are then responsible for maintaining that spot. Awards are given based up various criteria. Suggestions and activities for students and families are needed and welcomed. It takes a considerable amount of time Volunteers are needed to weed, trim, prune, and water the plants as well as organizational people and monetary donations. Click Volunteer on the home page to participate.