GrowSmart Maine will launch the first Maine Smart Growth Awards. These awards are designed to recognize the diverse activities that contribute to smart growth, and also serve as real life illustrations of the benefits it can bring, according to a news release from GrowSmart Maine, based in Gardiner.

The awards will showcase the kind of projects, plans, policies and people that support smart growth in all its diversity, whether it’s a plan for a walkable, inclusive village center, a development that is affordable and sustainably built, a community-supported bike and walking path, or a person whose career exemplifies the impact of smart growth.

The judges will be Charlie Colgan, former state economist; Kate Dempsey, executive director of Maine’s Nature Conservancy; and Evan Richert, former head of state planning and Orono community planner.

Nancy Smith, GrowSmart Maine’s executive director, said, “Smart growth takes many forms and these awards will help people see what it can do for their communities. There are so many wonderful and innovative projects already taking place in Maine; we are excited to recognize those that already exist as well as those that are in the planning stages,” according to the release.

Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments, is a member of the planning committee for the awards. Rural Washington County experiences less of the growth and development pressures commonly seen in Southern Maine, but she says despite that, she has seen smart growth principles at work.

“Brownfields redevelopment, for instance, exemplifies smart growth,” East said, according to the release. “As echoes of our commercial and industrial past, Brownfield sites are in wonderful locations: on waterfronts, in downtowns, at the crossroads of major thoroughfares. They reuse the ‘good bones’ of existing buildings, are already served by available infrastructure, revitalize village and town centers, and support existing businesses.”

Smith noted that submissions should provide clear illustrations of the way successful projects can integrate environmental and community values and sound and sustainable economics. Unlike many awards, Smith emphasized that the online application process is designed to be quick and easy. “I’d say someone can complete an application in about 20 minutes,” she said, according to the release.

The nomination deadline 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 25.

For more information or an application, visit growsmartmaine.org.

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