Even in October, Sooke is in full bloom. The town was awarded five out of five blooms at the Communities in Bloom awards ceremony held at the Prestige just over a week ago.
In July, CiB judges Shirley Culver from Kamloops and Rea Smith from Armstrong came to evaluate Sooke on eight criteria that included tidiness, natural and cultural heritage conservation and floral displays. A non-profit organization, their mission is to encourage environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement. They also promote the value of green spaces in urban settings.
“It was a surprise, we always worry when you compete year after year. You always want to improve,” said Laura Byrne, Sooke parks and environmental services coordinator.
Improvement has been a slow but steady process. This was the fourth year that Sooke has been judged, and has progressively gotten one bloom better each year since 2008. Byrne said a large part of that is because of communication.
“We’re doing a great job conveying our accomplishments (to CiB).” That means letting the organization know of all of Sooke’s efforts through an end-of-year report and presentation, as well as including any other coverage of accomplishments through the media or otherwise.
The town is also reaping the fruits of labour, she added. Projects that were just starting a few years ago, like landscaping in front of the hotel, the Sunriver Allotment Gardens and solar power at the T-Sou-ke First Nation, were all considered this time around. And there’s more coming.
“It’s all part of Sooke’s goals towards ecotourism and economic development,” Said Byrne. She stressed that it’s not just what Sooke district proper does, but all the residents as well.
Expressed as a percentage, Sooke scored 84 per cent, and Byrne said that means there are still things to work on.
“It’s great for the community — it gets people involved and acknowledges our involvement which is so rare for a community,” she said. “It’s a great way to stay positive.”
The judges also gave a special mention to the 25th annual Sooke Fine Arts Show for it helping showcase the region’s artistic talents and volunteerism.