The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 19, 2014

Lewisburg blooming all over for national contest

By Tina Alvey
Register-Herald Reporter

LEWISBURG — Once named America’s “Coolest Small Town,” Lewisburg is not content to simply rest on its laurels. The city is now tapping its flower power to compete in the “America in Bloom” contest.

Recorder Shannon Beatty, who has spearheaded Lewisburg’s participation in the national beautification program, reported to city council Tuesday evening that America in Bloom judges were expected to arrive in Greenbrier County this week.

The judges will tour the town today and Friday, taking time out this evening for a welcoming reception at the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center in downtown Lewisburg. Among the stops on their itinerary during the two-day visit are North House Museum, Carnegie Hall, Old Stone Church and Cemetery, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Dorie Miller Park and several private homes and gardens.

According to the America in Bloom (AIB) website, the organization “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.”

Participating in the nationwide program this year are communities stretching from coast to coast, including such towns as Winter Park, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Fayetteville, Ark.; and Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Communities are judged in categories such as floral displays, landscaped areas, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and urban forestry, receiving a “bloom rating” of 1-5 in the various disciplines.

In preparation for this week’s visit by the AIB judges, Beatty and Lewisburg Public Works director Mark Carver have marshaled their forces to clean up the landscape around the community garden and groom the Confederate Cemetery, among many other projects large and small.

Carver noted that clients of the Greenbrier County Day Report Center and inmates from Anthony Correctional Center have helped with the city-wide cleanup. He expressed appreciation for all of the hard work they and city workers put into this project, reserving special admiration for Beatty’s leadership.

“I feel really happy with what we’ve done,” Beatty told The Register-Herald in an interview on Wednesday.

This project is close to Beatty’s heart, she said, citing her eight years as a professional floral designer prior to joining city government. In addition to her full-time job as Lewisburg’s elected recorder, Beatty now has a private garden fresh business — Sensorium Herbals, LLC — that produces a variety of natural herbal remedies and products like soaps, lotions and lip balm.

She said Lewisburg became involved with the America in Bloom program with the encouragement of local garden clubs.

“Last fall, we formed a beautification coalition for Lewisburg,” Beatty said, noting that various garden club members supported applying to AIB in an effort to help promote the coalition’s goal to spruce up the city.

While Lewisburg’s effort in this year’s competition is its first, Beatty feels it has provided new awareness of the many sites that help to attract tourists to the city, including the Confederate Cemetery and the statue recognizing the Confederate soldiers from Lewisburg who perished in the Civil War. The L&R Trail with its newly-constructed kiosk on Court Street and the RiverWise Labyrinth and Boat Launch on city-owned property in nearby Caldwell — both of which are also on the AIB judges’ itinerary — are among Lewisburg’s other tourist magnets.

“It’s really important to keep up those tourist attractions all the time, not just when we’re in a contest like this one,” Beatty emphasized. “But this gives us a real impetus to do that.”

Winners of the AIB contest will be announced during the organization’s annual symposium, set for Oct. 2-4 in Philadelphia.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com