Cranbrook celebrates Art Gruenig as Citizen of the Year

Art Gruenig receives the award plaque from Colleen Osiowy, wife of the 2009 Citizen of the Year Rod Osiowy who lost his fight with cancer last summer. - Kerstin Renner
Art Gruenig receives the award plaque from Colleen Osiowy, wife of the 2009 Citizen of the Year Rod Osiowy who lost his fight with cancer last summer.
— image credit: Kerstin Renner

“Wow, if the Bluebirds could see me now!” That was the loving little note Lois Gruenig left on her husbands script for his acceptance speech as recipient of the 2010 Citizen of the Year award. Indeed, his feathered friends would have been flapping their wings and singing Art Gruenig’s praise.

Art and Lois Gruenig moved to Cranbrook in 1990, looking for a place to retire. “We chose Cranbrook due to its size and beauty,” Art Gruenig recalled. Joining the Rocky Mountain Naturalists, the Gruenigs soon found new friends and a new purpose.

The plight of two species in particular - the Bluebird and the Painted Turtle - had Art Gruenig springing into action. The audience at the award ceremony last Wednesday, January 19, was treated to a video presentation, outlining some of Gruenig’s accomplishments in the field of conservation.

Over the years, Art Gruenig has built around 4,000 Bluebird boxes. Dr. Roger Mitchell, who initiated the nomination for the award, said having the boxes set up around the community for the birds to nest resulted in 30,000 fledge-lings making it into the world. “Art really is responsible for the Bluebird return in the Southeast of B.C.,” stated Mitchell. “He’s had a big footprint outside of this region as well.”

The boxes have a unique design with removable lids so volunteers can check on eggs and hatchlings easily.

“We have a large workshop in our building and that’s where I built the boxes,” Gruenig explained. He is the condo manager at Mountain Meadows and found that fellow residents were very supportive of the Bluebird box construction.

In fact, Gruenig enlisted their help. People saved their refundable containers for him and Gruenig used the money to buy materials for the boxes.

Helping the cause comes easy to the other residents in the condo complex; they value Gruenig as a friendly and helpful manager. “He is never too busy to stop and answer a question or help us if he can,” explained Mountain Meadows resident Peggy Goodman.

Art Gruenig was also the driving force behind the construction of fences along Highway 3 by Elizabeth Lake as well as sand nesting sites to keep endangered Painted Turtles safely on the lake side of the road. He also initiated the trail system around the lake.

Co-nominator Elaine Karras stated Art Gruenig is quite uncomfortable with praise. “He says he just does what needs to be done,” she explained. Indeed, Gruenig was quick to note he could not have done the work without the help of others. “Without volunteers, this vision would have been impossible,” he emphasized humbly. Gruenig added he gains much satisfaction from the work and has found lasting friendships.

The Citizen of the Year award has been handed out by the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce since 1973.

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