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Morro Bay in Bloom beautifies the Embarcadero, one flower at a time 

One of the first areas that Morro Bay in Bloom adopted was along the Embarcadero waterfront, where volunteers planted red geraniums about four years ago. Recently the geraniums were looking a little sad, founder Walter Heath said.

"Really it was a result of being in lockdown for 90 days so they weren't getting enough water and that kind of stuff," Heath said.

click to enlarge BLOSSOMING Morro Bay in Bloom volunteers planted sunny red and pink flowers to contrast with the blue waters of the bay. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WALTER HEATH
  • Photo Courtesy Of Walter Heath
  • BLOSSOMING Morro Bay in Bloom volunteers planted sunny red and pink flowers to contrast with the blue waters of the bay.

Local stay-at-home orders caused by the global pandemic halted a lot of operations and activities throughout the Central Coast in 2020—including caring for the flowers Morro Bay in Bloom volunteers planted throughout the city.

The volunteers have since worked to bring the geraniums back, and they're flourishing. That's the goal of the volunteer group: to beautify the Morro Bay community with a splash of color and a variety of flowers.

With more than 60 volunteers, the group meets on Wednesdays or Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. to work on planters or specific areas in the city.

"The work is structured so that people have a sense of accomplishment after just working two hours. That's an important piece of the model. That's what keeps people coming back," Heath said.

It's fulfilling, he said, because the goals of the projects are attainable, and seeing the flowers is an instant mood booster.

But volunteers aren't constrained to the two scheduled volunteer days. They have the option to care for a downtown planter box on their own time or maintain a landscaped area by picking up trash. Heath calls these "discreet" volunteer efforts.

Morro Bay in Bloom has an ongoing relationship with Morro Bay Public Works and the city manager to identify areas of opportunity for beautification.

Public Works is staffed with eight employees who focus on street repair, maintain and do light construction (construct public restrooms and maintain plumbing or electricity in those facilities), and parks maintenance.

"That is a tall order for only a certain amount of people for a city that has as many public restrooms and parks as we do," Heath said. "We're not a big enough city to have a horticulturist on staff."

The group he founded, Heath said, can introduce warm colors into Morro Bay's cool-colored environment.

"Our environment is characterized by grays, blues, browns, and greens. What we've done is we introduced the yellows, oranges, pinks, and reds," he said.

The contrast is what grabs people's attention and brightens their moods.

Morro Bay in Bloom, founded in 2013, is part of a national volunteer movement called America in Bloom that promotes beautification through education and community involvement by planting and caring for flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements—including cultural heritage.

The national effort evokes a sense of pride, community development, and improving the quality of life in your own backyard, Heath said.

Communities that create their own chapter of the volunteer movement participate in America in Bloom's national awards programs, where the groups receive recognition for the work they've done to transform their respective communities. Morro Bay in Bloom received the national award for landscape areas in 2018.

Bringing the community together and improving his community has been rewarding for Heath. The next time you see flowers at the Main Street roundabout, in flower boxes downtown, or in Centennial Parkway, think of the Morro Bay in Bloom volunteers.

Fast fact

Transitions-Mental Health Association received a CalHOPE grant, which will enable the agency and its Central Coast Hotline to provide crisis counseling support to community members who have been impacted by COVID-19. Peer Crisis Counselors will provide services in a variety of formats—individual telehealth sessions, phone sessions, group sessions on telehealth, and text chatting. Community members throughout the Central Coast can initiate a session by calling Central Coast Hotline at 1-800-783-0607. CalHope crisis counselors are available at no cost to individuals feeling stressed and anxious about the COVID-19 public health emergency. Counselors will provide them guidance to get the emotional support they, their family, or friends might need. For more information and resources visit t-mha.org and calhope.org. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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