ITHACA, N.Y. –– The Tompkins County Community Beautification Program is seeking nominations for its annual awards recognizing local residents, businesses and civic associations that have done an outstanding job beautifying their properties.

Nominations must fall into one of four categories: Business, Residential, Civic Association or Placemaking. “Placemaking” awards go to individuals who beautify spaces that are used by the public –– such as schools or government buildings. Past winners of the placemaking award have included Press Bay Alley on W. Green St. and the renovation at the Danby Gathery. See winning projects from previous years here. 

Types of beautification efforts nominated may include landscape plantings, hanging baskets, planters, murals, interpretive signage and any other features that add, “color and uniqueness to our communities.”

“Awards are given annually in an effort led by Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County to recognize some of the effort that people in our community go to to make our places look more attractive and feel like a more beautiful place to live in,” said Tompkins County Tourism Planner  Nick Helmholdt. “I think it’s a great way within the community for people to get that recognition and to be noticed for the hard work that goes into those those places.”

The Tompkins County Community Beautification Program not only gives out awards for the work done by others to make Tompkins a better looking place to live, but also works with volunteers on improving the landscaping and aesthetics in highly travelled areas of the county, such as installing planters and flower beds. Their work is paid for with funds from the Tompkins County Tourism Program and the Hotel Room Tax, an additional 5% tax paid by guests at local hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts to support tourism initiatives.

“The awards are, in my view, a way for us to encourage the intention of this program to be carried out throughout the community by private households, businesses and other members of our community, and to really leverage some of that enthusiasm that shows so well in the plantings we do in our public areas,” Helmholdt said. 

In the City of Ithaca, this work is done by staff and a group of volunteers called the Beautification Brigade.  The Community Beautification Program also distributes grants to the rural Towns in Tompkins County for beautification projects,  also implemented and maintained primarily by volunteers. The program is administered by the Tompkins County Tourism Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

Projects created or funded by the Community Beautification Program are not eligible for awards.  These include the Ithaca Commons, Monarch Way Station in Dryden, the Traffic Rotary on Old Elmira Road, the Meadow Street plantings near Purity Ice Cream and the plantings on Cayuga Street next to Tompkins Public Library. To see other sites in Ithaca that are designed or maintained by the program, click here.

Nominations are open now through Oct. 1. To nominate a deserving spot/individual send an email to with the address of the location, and include digital photos if possible.  Self-nominations are welcomed.

Submissions will be reviewed by the Tompkins County Beautification, Art and Signage Committee.  Winners will be informed of their award, recognized on social media, and each will receive a selection of items from the Community Beautification Program for use in their future beautification efforts.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to achieve here is making our community as attractive and as visually interesting as we can so that when visitors do come, they remember Ithaca and Tompkins County as a place that is really well maintained and beautiful,” said Helmholdt. 

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at