Each year, the Governor’s Community Achievement Awards (GCAA) celebrate ten Texas communities for their outstanding efforts to keep their communities beautiful. From the Texas coast to the Panhandle, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded cities with this honor since 1986. Winners are selected for their ability to engage citizens, local businesses, schools, and other organizations in environmental improvement initiatives. Categorized by population, these ten cities share an award of $2 million in landscaping projects. Keep Texas Beautiful (KTB) and TxDOT have worked together to administer the GCAA for more than 30 years.
As we gear up for GCAA 2020, we’ll be featuring all ten of our 2019 GCAA recipients over the next few months on our blog. Stay tuned to learn about our other winning communities!
Category 1: Utopia
Population Up to 3,000
Landscape Award: $90,000
Nestled in the Texas Hill Country with rugged canyons, beautiful streams and towering trees, Utopia is home to just 222 residents, making it the smallest city awarded a Governor’s Community Achievement Award this year. In 1852, Captain William Ware, a Battle of San Jacinto veteran, settled on the Sabinal River about one mile south of current-day Utopia. By 1865, a store and post office were built in what is now the thriving community. Located on the Sabinal Canyon, Utopia offers birding, wildlife viewing and hiking opportunities. Thousands attend annual events such as the rodeo, Fourth of July fireworks and Fall Fair.
Utopia is a small, unincorporated community with no government, ordinances or tax funding and is run strictly by volunteers. With this small base, Utopia has still made a remarkable impact on the environment. With the help of Keep Utopia Beautiful (KUB), community members volunteered a total of 2,050 hours in 2018. As Doris Howdeshell, Affiliate Coordinator of KUB, puts it, “Winning the GCAA is a wonderful validation of all the hard work that our volunteers do throughout the year and inspires them for future projects.”
The volunteers of Utopia are the backbone of this tight-knit community. With no recycling or trash/curbside pickup, Utopia relies heavily on volunteers to educate the community, engage them in cleanup and beautification efforts and even staff their recycling center. Utopia Recycles is KUB’s flagship program. Last year, 40+ volunteers gave 1,530 hours serving 4,039 customers at the center.
Despite its small size, Utopia has made large strides in community improvement. Projects like the Bulky Household Trash Day, Utopia Park recycling bins, The Great Utopia Cleanup and Utopia Fall Fair are just a few other examples of how Utopia upholds its mission to be “nurturing stewards of our canyonlands.”
Learn more about our GCAA winners at ktb.org/gcaa.