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Former Metro councilor honored for his work on the McLoughlin Area Plan Implementation Team

A legacy grove was finally planted in a sunny meadow on the southern bank of Rinearson Creek between River Road and Meldrum Bar Park where it will be a legacy to Ed Gronke's dedication to the community for decades to come.

PHOTO BY TERRY JOHN GIBSON - On March 10, Gronke Legacy Grove Honoree Ed Gronke, right, relates local history to tree planting volunteers and tree donors, from left, Gladstone resident Randi Thomas, and local business leaders Terri Gilreath and Jennifer Harding.McLoughlin Area Plan Implementation Team (MAP-IT) Chair Terry Gibson said that he has since June 2017 been secretly planning the legacy grove for Gronke, 85. MAP-IT and the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council (NCUWC) joined forces on March 10 to plant the Ed Gronke Legacy Grove along the south bank of Rinearson Creek in Gladstone. Gibson didn't tell Gronke about the project until the week before the legacy grove was scheduled to be planted.

"I was greatly pleased," Gronke said. "But I don't believe I deserve credit for all of the environmental protections that have come to this area."

In addition to his more recent volunteer efforts, Gronke joined forces with other Ed Gronkeneighborhood advocates to stop a developer from filling in a wetland at the end of Rinearson Road in the 1990s. Gronke said there's a lot more work to do in improving environmental conditions around Rinearson Creek, much of which could be coordinated by NCUWC in partnership with Gladstone and Clackamas County officials.

"There was a need to recognize Ed for his years of volunteering on the MAP and MAP II process, and then for five years as chair of MAP-IT," Gibson said. "Ed has been donating his live Doug fir Christmas tree back to the Watershed Council for the last three years that we have been selling them. A legacy grove seemed like the perfect answer."

Gronke is a former Metro councilor and member of the Metro Policy Advisory Committee. He is the past chairman of both the Jennings Lodge CPO and the JOBS Plus effort for Clackamas County, and he has been a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Clackamas.

When he received his neighborhood's first-ever Outstanding Citizen Award in 2014, Gronke said he was raised in the era when "the responsibilities of citizenship were assumed by us all. This included seeing taxes as the price one paid to live in a free country. As well, paying attention to what was going on in one's community, in the country and in the world was considered important."

Gibson said locating the legacy grove proved to be a challenge. He initially wanted to have it planted along the Trolley Trail nearest Gronke's home in a Jennings Lodge stretch that had no overhead wires.

"The location choice was frustrated by the parks district, which was at first slow to respond and then made inconsistent demands regarding the species of trees it would allow," Gibson said.

Gibson said that he had trouble finding at least an acre of land to sustain the proposed grove. The willing partner would have adopt what would turn into 15 large native trees and agree to steward them into perpetuity.

With the end of planting season quickly approaching, Gibson asked the NCUWC Executive Director Andrew Collins-Andersen about planting the trees on private property at an event already scheduled along Rinearson Creek.

The pair scouted the site at a cleanup event in mid-February; it turned out to be an ideal location for a heritage grove a "stone's throw" from Gronke's property just downstream.

"Further, Ed and longtime friends had been personally providing stewardship for this section of the creek for decades," Gibson said.

With a firm and meaningful location, Gibson finally felt comfortable approaching MAP-IT. Its partner organizations quickly agreed to the plan, so Gibson began soliciting donations for the March 10 event.

MAP-IT members from the McLoughlin Area Business Alliance, Oak Grove Community Council and Jennings Lodge CPO jointly donated Western red cedar, big-leaf maple, Pacific yew, cascara, black hawthorn and vine maple trees. NCUWC provided Douglas firs, Oregon oak, red currants, ferns and rushes. Gronke was at the event helping the group of volunteers to plant trees, while sharing stories about local history.

Since moving to Jennings Lodge in 1977, Gronke worked with Betty (Rinearson) Foster, a descendant of Oregon Trail pioneers, and her husband. The couple helped Gronke to advocate that Rinearson Creek be designated as a waterway worthy of environmental protections, rather than its previous designation as a drainage ditch for agricultural purposes.

"If you're going to any kind of dedication, it should be the Ed Gronke-Harold Foster legacy grove," Gronke told Gibson.

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