By Jessica Mathews /

The Village of Pinckney has won $15,000 as part of a contest focused on projects that strive to enhance communities and engage residents.

The Consumers Energy Foundation’s 2021 “Put Your Town on the Map” competition rewards ideas and provides critical dollars for projects being developed in small towns throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Communities with a population of up to 10,000 were eligible.

Comins Township received $25,000 for first place to create a diverse public square designed for community events and tourism promotion. Pinckney received $15,000 as runner-up to turn vacant land into an accessible community garden and public gathering space. Alma received $10,000 to create usable art spaces and establish an art corridor in the downtown area. Other finalists included projects in Fowlerville, Clare, Galesburg, Manistee, Marshall, Sanford, and Vassar.

A panel of judges chose the three winning projects Wednesday after officials from the 10 finalist communities made presentations at the 2021 Small Town and Rural Development Conference led by the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan.

Pinckney Village President Rebecca Foster says their “pitch” included enhancements to their current community garden plan being implemented this spring. The initial plan includes 16 raised beds and two wheelchair-accessible beds on a vacant lot downtown at 135 West Main Street. The Consumer’s award will add improved water access and wheelchair-friendly pathways, more raised beds, and additional improvements.

Foster says many gardeners have expressed interest in growing produce to help supplement fresh food offerings at area food pantries, such as senior centers and the Farley Hill Food pantry. The Pinckney Garden Club plans to have a demo garden and participants hope to exchange ideas, advice, seeds, plants, and produce. Organizers will start assembling raised beds and filling them with topsoil in late April.

Applications for Pinckney community members are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Applications and more information are available through the provided link.

Roger Curtis, vice president of public affairs for Consumers Energy, said “Small and rural towns are an integral part of the fabric that makes up our great state, which is why Consumers Energy is proud to champion programs like the ‘Put Your Town on the Map’ competition to transform and revitalize communities”.