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Guest Blog: Judging for Keep Texas Beautiful’s 2019 Award Season

Photo Credit: Adrian Samano
The image of a great community stems largely from the quality of its public places – its roadways, green spaces, parks, trails, waterfronts, plazas, etc. It's easy to look at great public places and see them as nothing more than well-designed physical locations. But beneath the surface, these places are so much more. They are locations where communities come alive, where bonds between neighbors are strengthened and where a sense of belonging is fostered. They are locations that spark economic development and drive environmental sustainability.
Non-profit organizations and civic-minded volunteers across Texas are dedicating time and resources to enhancing and maintaining public spaces in their communities and are being recognized for their efforts. For the fifth consecutive year, a Scenic Houston representative participated in a panel of judges tasked with reviewing and selecting award recipients of the Keep Texas Beautiful's Governor's Community Achievement Awards (GCAA), granted in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation.

KTB first presented the GCAA in 1969, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) joined in providing landscaping projects in 1985. For three decades, KTB and TxDOT have fostered a working relationship through an annual contract that promotes anti-litter and beautification programs such as Don't Mess with Texas Trash-Off and the GCAA. Through these avenues, residents can build and retain a distinct image that positively impacts their sense of place. This year, TxDOT and KTB are awarding ten standout communities a share of $2,000,000 (funded by TxDOT) to allocate toward landscaping projects that will further improve visual enhancements along local rights-of-way in their community.

I was placed in a group with four other KTB affiliates to evaluate and score 15 applications based on community programming and projects within seven categories: Community Leadership and Coordination, Public Awareness, Education, Beautification and Community Involvement, Litter Prevention and Cleanup, Solid Waste Management, and Litter Law and Legal Dumping Enforcement. From urban to rural populations, it was evident with each nomination reviewed, that communities and civic leaders are committed to the preservation of their Lone Star State community.

The applications I reviewed with my group were impressive and inspiring, and provided gainful insight into big and small communities outside my knowledge base. I found that the most successful applicants shared exemplary examples of their community's culture and details of active civic engagement, bolstered by measurable results and quantifiable data that elaborated each category. 

 On day two, the judges rearranged for the Keep Texas Beautiful Individual and Organization Awards, which recognized individuals and organizations involved in projects that directly improved and enhanced their community. It was imperative that applicants provided details of the nominee's leadership skills, their influence on a successful program/project, and how their involvement with the program/project improved the quality of life in their community. After careful deliberation, scoring for the KTB Individual and Organization awards was akin to the GCAA, resulting in a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner.

For two days, I left my Houston bubble and participated in something significant. As a judge for the GCAA and KTB awards, I experienced firsthand how KTB, Scenic Houston and other like-minded non-profits come together to recognize the efforts of individuals and organizations that improve the vision for their community. Distinct, attractive communities greatly impact the lives of its residents, and through the GCAA and KTB awards, statewide affiliates can celebrate those communities that are making their slice of Texas a more attractive place to live, work, and visit. 

Winners for the GCAA and KTB awards will be announced on the Keep Texas Beautiful website this Spring.

​Blog Post Written By Chris Cantu, Scenic Houston. 


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