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Canadians Praise Reston

Representatives of Woodstock, Ontario visited Reston after it won an international nature competition.

When the citizens of Woodstock, Ontario found out they had lost an international nature and conservation award to Reston, they were initially disappointed.

Then they decided to come visit.

"Our first impression was that it would be great to live here," said Dan Major, Woodstock's supervisor for parks and forestry as he stood amidst the falling leaves at the Walker Nature Center. "You get a real sense of community here."

Woodstock narrowly lost to Reston in the 2004 International Communities in Bloom Competition, a worldwide challenge in which towns and cities are judged on landscape beautification, conservation and environmental awareness. Reston was selected from similar communities around the world as the globe's top middle-sized contestant.

Last week, three Woodstock representatives met with Reston Association officials and toured Reston's nature, recreational and community highlights.

The envoys were sent to gather ideas they could carry back to Woodstock. After seeing much of the community, they said they particularly hoped to replicate Reston's preservation of green space, its array of sports and recreational facilities and its sense of volunteerism.

"We're looking to pick up ideas to take back to our own community," Major said. "And we're definitely picking up a lot of ideas."

WOODSTOCK is an mixed-industry city with a population of 33,000, located in an agricultural region roughly between Detroit and Toronto. The municipal government has entered the city in the Communities in Bloom Competition since 2000, winning Canada's national competition last year.

Similarly, Reston won the America in Bloom Competition last year. But this year Reston took the top prize and placed first in its population category for the international competition. Oshawa, Ontario won the large-scale community category, while Clonakilty, Ireland won the small-sized community category.

The award was the culmination of months of work by RA officials, who pulled together a multi-media presentation highlighting Reston's swimming pools, tennis courts, natural habitats, lakes, pathways, businesses and community spirit.

When the award was presented in September at Prince Edward Island, Canada in September, the judges said Reston excelled in all eight categories: tidiness effort, urban forestry, landscaped areas, floral displays, turf and groundcover areas, environmental awareness, heritage preservation and community involvement.

"Reston is a great example of a dynamic, progressive community that is looking forward to its future," said Ted Blowes, vice chair and national judge for Communities in Bloom in a statement. "The way that Reston is tucked into the wooded areas as it was conceived by founder Robert E. Simon 40 years ago shows a sensitivity to habitat preservation that is seldom seen. The fact that the same philosophy is in place after four decades is little short of remarkable."

THE CANADIANS said they were most impressed with Reston's ability to drum up an army of volunteers for non-profit charity functions occurring nearly every weekend.

"There's a real sense of volunteerism here in Reston," said Denis Meloche, a Woodstock citizen who worked on the city's Communities in Bloom project.

Meloche said Woodstock should replicate Reston's community-wide volunteer festivals, at which residents learn about volunteering opportunities.

Also, Meloche said, Woodstock should incorporate Reston's communications methods, including local TV commercials, Internet outreach and mailed quarterly newsletters.

Claudia Thompson-Deahl, RA's environmental resource manager who accepted Reston's award in Canada, said the exchange of ideas is going both ways. Reston, she said, could also glean a few concepts from its neighbor to the north.

"Canada is far ahead of Reston in terms of composting and recycling," she said.