The Facts 2/9/15

WC ironing out details for Columbia Blooms project


WEST COLUMBIA — Finding a way to make the city more attractive while bringing the community together, officials now are examining ways to get its new Columbia Blooms beautification program off the ground.

“There’s just something about plants that just kind of brings everybody together, and it’s been really cool to see that happen,” said Sam Stamport, who brought the idea to the attention of the city.

Columbia Blooms is West Columbia’s version of other Brazoria County beautification projects, such as Keep Angleton Beautiful and Keep Lake Jackson Beautiful, Stamport said. It is designed to improve the facade of the West of the Brazos city through the use of flowers, plants and trees.

The project is sponsored by America in Bloom, a national awards program providing the framework for improving the overall quality of life in a city through the use of plants, flowers and trees. It provides on-site, one-on-one mentoring and coaching by a team of experts, and hosts a symposium where members can network and share ideas with others as well as evaluations from the program’s judges.

A formation committee made up of representatives from the city and organizations, including Columbia Heritage Foundation and American Legion, has been meeting for about six weeks, and is in the process of getting Columbia Blooms off the ground.

The members have so far raised the $900 registration fee, and need to complete a community profile. The next step is finding the funding and advertising.

The city will provide funds to the program until the formation committee can turn the program into a non-profit organization — if that’s the direction it ultimately wants to take, Stamport said.

As for advertising, Columbia in Bloom committee members are looking at Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as creating a website with a link from the city’s webpage.

The committee is looking to begin in the downtown area, Stamport said. The first project will be planting window boxes downtown during a garden show planned for March 21. Committee members wanted to start in downtown because it’s a high-traffic area.

Stamport moved back to his hometown two years ago, and was searching for a community-oriented project that would help beautify the city. After trying several concepts, he discovered America in Bloom.

The beautification program seemed like a good fit for West Columbia because cities of varying sizes can participate, and it had a solid foundation, he said.

Stamport then gathered all the information to create a local chapter of America in Bloom called Columbia Blooms, and in December, presented the idea to city officials, he said.

Although it’s complimentary of Keep Texas Beautiful, Stamport said America in Bloom also focuses on cultural heritage.

“It just kind of took off from there, I’m just amazed,” Stamport said.

America in Bloom seems like a good fit for West Columbia because of its focus on the cultural aspect of a city, Mayor Laurie Kincannon said.

The push for the population increase has always been on the historical significance of the city, and the flowers, plants and trees will help enhance that.

Since Kincannon took the office of mayor seven years ago, she has been searching for someone to spearhead a program like Columbia Blooms, she said. Any time she would approach someone to chair the program, there would be a negative response, a lack of time being the typical reason.

City officials are hoping the beautification program, along with the code enforcement officer helping to maintain the cleanliness of the city, will be a main factor in drawing more people to West Columbia, the mayor said.

“It’s like the chicken and the egg sort of thing,” she said. “We’re not going to get people or businesses into our community unless it’s a clean community,”

While winning awards from America in Bloom would be a plus, Kincannon said the primary focus is on making the city more attractive.

“You have to have a different perspective than the one you currently have, and that’s what I’m looking forward to,” she said.

Andy Packard is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0155.

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