Ortonville’s Kind Place Rock Garden Brings Community Together
(Lara Mossa, Sept. 24, 2020)
ORTONVILLE – In recent weeks more than 100 kits have been handed out in Downtown Ortonville to help people paint and place rocks in the Kind Place Rock Garden. Located at Crossman Park behind the buildings on Mill Street, the initiative is intended to send positive words of encouragement and support to people throughout the area.
“The overall message for right now as it is related to the project is with this pandemic, everyone is dealing with the pandemic a little differently,” said Matt Jenkins, Executive Director of the Ortonville Downtown Development Authority. “This project is geared toward generating kindness in the community. That’s the overarching theme. In this struggling time, we can do these small things that better the community.”
Judi Kwasnik, 46, of Brandon Township, first brought the idea to the village a few years ago. While vacationing with her family in Port Sanilac, she noticed painted rocks, and her children enjoyed hunting for them in the playground and pier. After researching the project on Facebook, she found out that this is a common practice in other cities, and she started painting and hiding rocks in Ortonville.
The Village Council formally approved the idea in 2018 and created a small space for rocks in the downtown garden. Whether young or old, the people who paint them put #loveortonville on the bottom along with the words ortonvillemirocks, and those who find them can post them on a special Facebook page called Ortonville Michigan Rocks! One of them even traveled to Australia.
“I like the fact that it seems like the right rocks find the right people at the right time,” Kwasnik said.
But with the advent of the Coronavirus, people started being afraid to find and place rocks. Kwasnik has urged people to take precautions such as washing their hands and not putting their hands on their face.
“We’re all afraid of Covid, but these rocks have a purpose and more than anything people need to learn you can pick up the rocks,” she said.
To rejuvenate the idea, the DDA distributed at least 160 rocks with do-it-yourself kits at the Farmers Market. Painters use acrylic craft paint and are encouraged to use some type of spray sealer on top of the rock to protect the picture if it rains.
“The effort we’ve undertaken this summer in the past month is really to revive the excitement around the painted rocks and the garden,” Jenkins said. “There’s no better time with everyone in different situations dealing with the pandemic. We felt it was time to bring this to the general public. Our hope is to generate some kindness.”
As an outgrowth of the project, there will be a rock painting party at the Brandon Community Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, to support the United Veterans of Michigan. Located on Hadley Road, people will be painting rocks and hiding them all over the state in support of veterans.
“Now more than anything, people need these rocks,” Kwasnik said. “They need to know that someone it out there trying to send a huge or a smile.”
For more information, go to the Facebook page Ortonville Michigan Rocks! or to the website https://ortonvilledda.org/gallery-1.html#rocks.
Note: This story previously stated that the Village of Ortonville distributed the packets, and has been updated to clarify that it was the DDA.