JACKSON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Consumers Energy Foundation has announced the three winners of the 2022 Planet Awards, which include a project in Kalamazoo County.
According to a news release, Oshtemo Charter Township will receive $150,000 to work alongside the Kalamazoo Nature Center to restore a two-mile section of the Fruit Belt Rail Corridor. The trail will start at Flesher Field and run southwest to the township border.
Jessica Simons, the KNC’s vice president of conservation stewardship, said the township will work on the recreational aspect of the new trial while her group will focus on the environment.
“Many of the rails to trails projects, that land has been disturbed. So we often have pretty significant invasive plant species that come that come through and tend to colonize some of those areas where you have disturbance like that,” Simons told News 8 Monday. “What this grant will allow our team to do is to go in, do further inventories of what kind of plants we see in the area and try to make sure that we can protect the important or unusual native plants that are there.”
Simons expects the KNC to start analyzing the new trail land this summer and start rehabilitation work in the fall.
The big winner of the 2022 Planet Awards was the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership. The organization will receive $250,000 to add more greenery to Macomb County, including planting 1,000 new trees, 1,500 native shrubs and 40 acres of local pollinating plants.
The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority will get $100,000 for the Huron River Headwaters project in Brighton. The group is working to restore the forested wetland and floodplain habitats in the area, including planting new native trees, including ash and oak that were killed by a rash of pests and disease.
West Michigan also won funding from the Planet Awards last year. The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy secured $100,000 in 2021 to help restore the Armintrout-Milbocker Nature Preserve in Allegan. Construction crews are still building a new trailhead and installing the trail system. It is expected to open in the fall.
The Consumers Energy Foundation is the charitable arm of Jackson-based Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility company. The Foundation and Consumers Energy employees and retirees donated more than $17 million to nonprofit causes last year.