Two judges from the national Communities in Bloom organization visited St. Paul last week. Lucy Chang and Colleen Stockford went to several sites in town to assess how St. Paul is channeling its community spirit to improve its green spaces and its environmental practices.

By virtue of its past successes at the provincial level, St. Paul is one of four communities with less than 6,000 population being considered for national standing.

The others are Petitcodiac and Chipman, both in New Brunswick; and Melfort, Saskatchewan.

Stockford, who is from Sussex, New Brunswick, said Communities in Bloom is not just a gardening contest.

“It’s the pride that you take in your community to make your landscapes look nice and their trees to flourish,” she said. “It’s all about pride and creating green spaces. And in the process, you’re creating a safe and welcoming environment for you and for new people coming in every generation.”

Chang, who is from Ottawa, explained that entering the national program is a major step up for St. Paul, which earned its way onto the national stage by virtue of top-five finishes in provincial judging.

“When you reach a top level at the national level, you are invited to do the championship level. And then from there the ultimate one is the international competition, which puts your community on the global map,” Chang said.

From their entry to the national level, St. Paul first competes in the population section. From there they may progress in subsequent years to the Circle of Excellence, Class of Champions, and Grand Champions before finally being invited to the international level.

Stockford says she likes St. Paul’s chances of advancing. “These guys just joined national, so now they have to work their way up through all those categories and then someday, hopefully they’ll join. 

“I know they will,” she said.

Both judges say the process isn’t about comparing towns against each other, but assessing community involvement and continuous improvement within each community. Some places will have hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, Stockford said, while others will have far less. The funding isn’t the difference-maker.

As Chang said, “It’s what you can achieve with what you have.”

Results will be announced in Victoria in October.

Herman Poulin shows the Holodomor monument in Lagasse Park to judges Colleen Stockford and Lucy Chang. Penny Fox guided the tour. JEFF GAYE
The Healing Garden at Blue Quills was a tour highlight. JEFF GAYE
The new St. Paul Wastewater Treatment Plant showed the town’s long-range vision for environmental sustainability. JEFF GAYE