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RACINE — The city more than held its own against some international big boys this weekend.

This past weekend the city earned a bronze rating and a special mention for rehabilitating the Lake Michigan shoreline at Samuel Myers Park at the 22nd annual Communities in Bloom symposium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Communities in Bloom is a Canadian nonprofit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement.

This was the first year that Racine competed in CIB’s international category, which covers locations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Racine participated in the Very Large City Division, going up against Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Loughborough, Leicestershire, England; and Norwich, Norfolk, England.

The city received a 5 blooms honorable mention bronze rating, while Edmonton won the category.

“Getting a 5 blooms in our first go-around in the international category is phenomenal,” said Melissa Kaprelian-Becker, a Racine County Board supervisor, former alderman, and head of the Discover Racine group. “We can take a lot of pride in this accomplishment.”

Kaprelian-Becker attended the symposium and awards ceremony in Canada.

The awards were based on evaluations completed this summer by trained judges.

In July, two judges came to Racine and evaluated the city’s tidiness, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, landscape and floral displays.

In their evaluation, judges Bob Ivison and Ed Hooker III, both of Camp Springs, Md., made special mention of how the city has rehabilitated the lakefront in the past 30 years.

“The transformation of Samuel Myers Park shoreline has been remarkable,” the judges wrote.

Revitalization effort

Myers Park was laid out in 1984 as a turf-grass area and a boat launch. But rising silting and pollution resulted in reduced usage and an unacceptable low environmental quality.

In 2009, the Racine Health Department began an intensive monitoring program which identified multiple issues and pollution sources. The department started a phased program to improve water quality.

The city stopped direct stormwater from reaching the shoreline, increased accessibility to the lakefront, and restored coastal wetlands. The city also eradicated invasive and other non-indigenous species, and planted more than 30,000 native plants that helped restore wildlife, flora and fauna.

Racine has done very well in the organization’s America in Bloom competition. So well that judges implored the city to participate in the international competition, Kaprelian-Becker said.

Discover Racine will use the judges’ evaluation to develop specific projects to improve the city, Kaprelian-Becker said.

“We definitely want to continue getting better and continue to compete internationally,” she said. “Right now we have a lot of positive movement going for us. We want to keep that going.”

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