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Colorado State grad puts down roots in landscape architecture field

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com .)

For Tigard's Drew Cronin, 27, Jan. 1 marks more than the beginning of a new year. It's also the one-year anniversary of the day he and his longtime friend Brandon Poole, towing all of their possessions, drove from Fort Collins, Colo., and relocated to Tigard.

Cronin can summarize the move, which included driving through three feet of snow in Fort Collins and encountering equally wintry weather in Wyoming, in five words: 'Poor, poor choice of timing.'

Treacherous move aside, Cronin has no regrets. Looking for a place where he could grow professionally in the field of landscape architecture, he found himself attracted to the climate, scenery and culture the Portland area offers. His passion for outdoor recreation - surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, golfing, biking, backpacking and gardening - further intensified his interest in Oregon. The opportunity to reunite with his childhood friends Jesse and Scott, who both moved here in 1998, sealed the deal for him.

Cronin began working as a landscape designer in Sherwood and recently started a new job with a small company in downtown Portland. His goal to become a certified landscape architect can be realized next year, when he becomes eligible to take a landscape architecture review exam for the state of Oregon.

'My father and mother had a landscape architect friend and I used to see his plans when I was little and get really into them,' Cronin says of the impetus for his passion.

During his senior year of high school, Cronin took a drawing class to fulfill a basic art requirement for graduation. 'I never knew I could draw a stick figure,' he says, but the drawings he created and consequent awards he received revealed a previously unknown talent.

Wanting to use that talent but also craving something more scientific and architectural than fine art, Cronin opted to study landscape design at Colorado State University. After graduation and a brief stint back in his native Ohio, Cronin returned to Colorado and started his own business as a residential landscape designer. He worked as an independent contractor for several companies in Fort Collins.

It was, Cronin says, 'a horrible, horrible failure, but it was an excuse for me to have fun.' He notes his side jobs plowing snow and bartending were necessary to sustain himself financially during this time.

Recognizing that Fort Collins 'wasn't really a place to grow a career,' and realizing his roommate Brandon was similarly needing a boost in his job, Cronin let the economic opportunity and tempting beauty of the landscape guide him to Oregon.

Cronin looks at the world with the trained eyes of a landscape designer. Referring to the integrity of design in Tigard's new skateboard park, Cronin notes, 'I really appreciate that kind of stuff. I think it's great for the community, too. It brings people together on a site that otherwise was completely unusable. More communities should adapt to that kind of recreational usage of otherwise inert spaces.'

Cronin laments that he hasn't gone snowboarding yet this season but says that it's on the agenda. He's already looking forward to surfing season, as well. After spending a portion of his childhood in Southern California, Cronin can aptly compare the water differences.

'Oregon's a different animal, being that the water's quite a bit colder, not quite as inviting most of the year as Southern California's. However, the water is one hundred times cleaner. I don't feel like I'm going to get sick if I go out in the water.'

When he's not outdoors, Cronin is typically working, playing racquetball at the Beaverton YMCA with Brandon, paying homage to his mom and her Italian roots by putting together a from-scratch meal in the kitchen, perfecting his skills as an amateur blues harmonica player or spending time with his dog Luna, who's been with him since 1999.

Cronin was introduced to Luna while visiting a classmate from Colorado State University. Cronin was filled in on her history: her owners had recently died in a car accident and the classmate, who had been trying to find her a home but was moving the next day, said she would have to go to the pound.

'Don't put her in the pound,' Cronin told his classmate. 'I'll take her and I'll see if I can find her a home.'

Smiling at the memory, Cronin says, 'I found her a home - mine.'

Finding home: Cronin understands the importance. After dividing time in his youth between Ohio and Southern California, then schooling and residing in Colorado, Cronin has found a new home in Oregon.

Of his feelings for his new state and home, Cronin says simply, 'I love it.'