The Mountain Times

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‘Rutland Blooms’ is about more than flowers

As The Herald noted, April 10, in its name and function, the new Rutland beautification effort known as "Rutland Blooms" is about a lot more than flowers.

The idea blossomed during a difficult discussion about crime, poverty and drug abuse at a Police Commission meeting, and in the span of less than three weeks it has grown to include more than 50 groups, businesses and local leaders, all intent on making Rutland's future a bright one.  Nearly a dozen have signed on in just the past couple of days, and many, like the Rutland Garden Club, have been beautifying Rutland for years.

Having spent the past 16 years becoming ingrained in city life, activities and challenges, and having visited family here my entire life, I have what I think is a unique view of Rutland, that of an insider and an outsider.

I see Rutland as a great community, with spirit and selflessness abundant in the people who live and work here. I see a city surrounded by stunning landscapes, with historic architecture, good schools and local colleges, low-cost housing and a strong and improving downtown with great restaurants, entertainment, locally owned retail stores and a mix of services.

We have a vibrant core of businesses that understand the importance of supporting their community.  We have a spectacular historic theater that presents world-class talent - and opportunities for local artists and students to display their skills as well. We have strong, locally owned news outlets.

We have the attributes of a rural community - people know each other, their elected officials and how to pull together in times of trouble, like they did following hurricanes Irene and Sandy. We have the East's best skiing at our doorstep, and some of North America's biggest cities within easy reach.

We also have our share of challenges, no doubt, including crime and poverty, which the city's extensive VISION Plan is already targeting. Unfortunately, even as the community works to solve its problems, we've historically had a habit of highlighting them far more than our attributes. We rarely toot the community's own horn, and for some, it seems the negatives have become like sustenance.

So what's the point of Rutland Blooms? Well, it's definitely about working together and planting millions of flowers, but it goes way beyond that.

It's about how we view Rutland locally, and how we want others to view the community from outside. It's about harnessing the incredible spirit of this community to build on the existing beauty of Rutland, including the beauty of its buildings, people, landscapes and existing gardens.

It's about supporting and increasing the sense of community that will be necessary to solve the issues the city faces.

And it's about celebrating Rutland's ongoing transformation, and building on the momentum that has already begun to grow.

So how can you help? Plant a garden at your home or business. Donate to "Rutland Blooms" through the Downtown Rutland Partnership. Volunteer a few hours to plant flowers for a non-profit, or an elderly neighbor, the opportunities to help are expansive.

Steve Costello is vice president of generation and energy innovation at Green Mountain Power.