Bruce Rottink: At Home at Tryon Creek

A legacy of self-perpetuating forests

Story and pictures by Tim LaBarge.

After retiring from a job in the insurance world, Bruce Rottink was trying to decide where to spend his time: Tryon Creek State Natural Area or another well-treed park in the region. One rainy afternoon while walking the trails of Tryon, he looked up at the canopy and said to himself, “This is home.”

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Six years and 1,777 volunteer hours later, Bruce, with his white goatee and sun hat, is a familiar face at Tryon. He spends his time leading hikes, studying plants and educating youngsters on field trips.

Bruce grew up in Minnesota and spent his summers planting seedlings on his uncle’s Christmas tree farm. He went on to earn a doctorate in forest tree physiology and then spent more than thirteen years researching the intricacies of trees. There’s little doubt in his mind that his summer job and his father’s love for natural history directed him to the woods.

Now, he’s more interested in introducing people to the forest. He enjoys seeing families explore the park, but mostly, he loves seeing children discover what it means to spend time beneath the firs and maples.

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Sitting on the bench in the Friends Circle outside of the Nature Center, Bruce explains: “I have seen the reaction of students who come here on field trips and I know they enjoy it. You only have to have one second grader shout out, ‘This was the best field trip ever’ to keep you coming back.”

Volunteers like Bruce make the world go around at Tryon. There are 218 long-term volunteers who help lead various programs. And there are more than 900 volunteers who show up for Stewardship Saturdays and other weekend programs. Together, they log more than 16,000 hours each year, which adds up to about $370,000 in services.

Bruce is a critical part of the volunteer community. He’s a portrait of what volunteer coordinators can only hope for: dedicated, long term, enriching and dependable.

Stephanie Puhl, Development Director for Friends of Tryon Creek, has watched Bruce in action many times. “He has an amazing way of connecting with people. He has great scientific knowledge and can explain complicated concepts in a fun and simple way, connecting with people’s unique and varied interests.” she says. “He’s part of the Tryon family, and he makes people feel like they belong here.”

 

Bruce Rottink examining a Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Bruce Rottink examining a Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Bruce has fun too. He has fun explaining nature with his hand built props and puppets, he has fun meeting new people, and he has fun watching leaves grow big and green on a maple tree and then decay quietly on the forest floor. “My wife Karen calls this my playground. I wouldn’t come out here if it wasn’t fun,” he says.

It’s a playground not only for him, but for so many people and animals. He would like to see it stay the same in years to come so people from the busy city can quickly step into the woods and take a deep breath.

“This is a very healing, restorative place,” Bruce says quietly from his perch on the stone bench. “I hope people find it to be a place of serenity and healing. When you’re out there and start paying attention to things, you see amazing details.”

At times, when Bruce notices that visitors make a personal connection with the park, he gently encourages them to return as volunteers or to become members of Friends of Tryon Creek. Already a volunteer and regular donor, he recently took a longer view by arranging for a portion of his estate to go to Friends of Tryon Creek. He is also in the process of finalizing a plan for long-term giving to FOTC through the Oregon Community Foundation.

 

Bruce Rottink walking along Old Main Trail

Bruce Rottink walking along Old Main Trail

“Leaving money to FOTC is helping to utilize and preserve a valuable resource for future generations,” Bruce says. “I have developed relationships with the people who work here and I have seen what they do. I trust them to move forward with a good program.”

At times, when Bruce notices that visitors make a personal connection with the park, he gently encourages them to return as volunteers or to become members of Friends of Tryon Creek. Already a volunteer and regular donor, he recently took a longer view by arranging for a portion of his estate to go to Friends of Tryon Creek. He is also in the process of finalizing a plan for long-term giving to FOTC through the Oregon Community Foundation.

“Leaving money to FOTC is helping to utilize and preserve a valuable resource for future generations,” Bruce says. “I have developed relationships with the people who work here and I have seen what they do. I trust them to move forward with a good program.”


Please consider making a planned gift to Friends of Tryon Creek, and consider putting your money where your passion is – just like Bruce.

If you have questions about making a planned gift feel free to contact our Development Director at (503) 636-4398.