In these days of polarization, maybe we can agree on one thing, what is scenic or beautiful. From a grand mountainside to a shimmering lake or from the dark starry skies to a single wildflower bloom–can’t we all agree these are scenic or beautiful views. But what happens when we add humans into the mix? How do we maintain our natural surroundings while choosing and celebrating only the best humans have to offer? How do we judge our impact?
Texas’ own First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, envisioned our communities as more complex than a garden club project. “Through the word beautification makes the concept sound merely cosmetic, it involves much more: clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas. To me…beautification means our total concern for the physical and human quality we pass on to our children and the future.”
We agree with Lady Bird which is why we started the Scenic City Certification Program, to honor and celebrate Texas cities that aren’t in a beauty contest but that are striving to incorporate the highest community standards for physical and human qualities to pass on to generations to come. It’s not necessarily about who they are today (although it may be) but it’s more about who they strive to be someday–sort of scenic city wannabes.
The program is unique because it’s the only one in the country recognizing that a scenic city is not accidental, it is intentional. It provides an objective, points-based review of existing municipal infrastructure ordinances. In fact, each city applicant receives a score sheet evaluation, sort of a scenic report card, that gives them scores or how they’re doing now and how they might improve. Cities that score at the upper level and demonstrate a landscaping/tree planting program, on-premise sign regulations, prohibition of new billboards, and more, may become part of a honored group of certified scenic cities, currently 84 of the approximate 1200 Texas cities. Size doesn’t matter–this list of 84 includes small, medium and large cities that have demonstrated the infrastructure ordinances needed to qualify.
Is your city one of the 84? If not, and you think it should be or you’d like to see how your city compares to those 84, then investigate the program, speak to those in charge, and find out how your city might join.
And please tell us how you define or describe a scenic city. You can watch some videos here that give some deeper dives into the focus areas of the program. Take a look around your neighborhood and greater community–what is your city leaving for future generations?