Columnist Merle Burleigh meets with representatives of CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up Grant Program and America in Bloom
Through America in Bloom, West Chicago was the recipient of CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up grant of $25,000, which was used for the planting of about 100 trees in the City’s 2019 tree planting program.
At the Opening Ceremony during Blooming Fest, Mayor Ruben Pineda introduced the two representatives, Bill Hahn from America in Bloom and Larry Lloyd from CN Railways. Hahn is the former Arborist and Horticulturist for the City of Akron, Ohio and active member of the America in Bloom organization serving on the CN Contest Committee. Lloyd is Head of State and Local Government/Public Affairs for CN Railway, and CN’s lead for CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up.
The Mayor explained, “The awarding of this grant is based on community impact and engagement, sustainability, technical assurances, and alignment with the program’s objectives.”
Following the introduction, the two representatives enjoyed visiting the participants at the Fest, became better acquainted with the community and viewed some of the trees planted. Hahn and Lloyd agreed there are three basic components of the grant—environment, special landscaping and
The CN network extends to three North American coasts, passes through a wide range of habitats, including national parks, forests, prairies and wetlands. Lloyd said, “It is a way for us to be environmentally friendly to the communities which our trains go through. It builds up pride. Reforestation is important. We need the tree planting.” He added, “CN uses 500,000 to 800,000 trees for rail in both Canada and the United States. Chicago is the larger Railroad hub in the world. All rail lines lead to Chicago.” The partnership with AIB has helped to expand the program. He explained the grant program in Canada started in 2012 and in the United States in 2014. “It is good input for communities, creating a good environment in hometown communities, both visibly and audibly.”
Hahn explained the benefits of communities participating in the AIB program. It helps increase health both mentally and physically through nature, higher real estate values, economic development, pride, and a colorful and beautiful community. “It is a Win-Win situation for participating communities, learn ways to improve and build pride.” He added that with each year of participation, communities gain knowledge, continue beautification and increase community involvement.
America in Bloom was founded in 2001. Hahn said, “AIB has its roots back in Europe. It started in France in 1947. After the war, the citizens felt no hope. They started the beautification to get them out of the doldrums and it worked. Then it spread to England, then to Ireland, where it was called TidyTowns.” AIB builds on the concept of creating sustainable community greening and beautification projects contributing to each community’s environmental, economic, social, and health benefits.
Two judges from America in Bloom are visiting West Chicago near the end of July. Here they will assess the seven criteria of community vitality, flowers, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, celebrating heritage, and overall impression.
This interview was conducted by local columnist Merle Burleigh at Blooming Fest.