As she wraps up her second term of Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) service for the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) this month, Elizabeth Gronert leaves behind success in tourism development and takes with her an abiding love for Oregon Coast cuisine.

“Fish tacos from Tony’s Crab Shack in Bandon — I could eat them at least once a week,” says Gronert, OCVA South Coast Project Coordinator. “And any fruit or vegetable from Valley Flora Farm in Langlois. They have seriously spoiled me.”

With her passion for coastal flavors, it’s fitting that one of Gronert’s main projects was expanding the 138-mile Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail (WRCT), which runs through Curry, Coos and coastal Douglas counties. During her time with OCVA, the food trail expanded from 11 to 43 members to include farms, markets, craft breweries and seafood purveyors. Gronert says the funding, support and collaboration among WRCT, OCVA and Travel Oregon was key to success. She particularly enjoyed highlighting the work of local business owners.

“It was awesome to learn about people doing local sourcing and celebrating the fact that they do. They don’t always get a pat on the back,” she says.

OCVA South Coast Agritourism Coordinator Kathleen Dickson says the RARE member was invaluable to the success of the WRCT.

“Liz, with our blessing, took it upon herself to schedule meetings and keep us all on track. She has this energy and an amazing ability to bring things together,” Dickson says.

Gronert also helped develop a brochure and a passport program for the trail, which both launched this summer. Her other primary focus was to help develop the Coquille River Water Trail, an outdoor recreation initiative aimed increasing recreation, economic development and stewardship of the river.

“Liz helped the Water Trail Coordinator stay organized, helped with the Facebook page and assisted in creating the action plan,” says OCVA Destination Coordinator Dave Lacey. “She has a great understanding of social media and many of the needed programs that we use to get things done and communicate.”

Her focus on outdoor recreation tourism included development of a paddling map that will provide access points, mileage, restrooms and other points of interest on the Umpqua, Coos, Chetco, Rogue and Coquille rivers. Gronert also worked on the Coastal Health Ride For Life — a cycling event on the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway that’s poised to become an annual event.

Gronert began her first RARE term in September of 2017. The Iowa native, who studied environmental science and anthropology, says she was surprised by how quickly she took to the tourism industry. She says the industry provides inspiring opportunities for job growth, grassroots organizing and sustainability.

“It has been a cool experience to work with different types of people. I thrive off these connections.”

RARE is an AmeriCorp program administered through the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement. The program’s mission is “to increase the capacity of rural communities to improve their economic, social, and environmental conditions, through the assistance of trained graduate-level participants who live and work in communities for 11 months.” Visit the website to learn more about the program.