Welcome to our “5 Questions” series! We chat with park staff around the province to give you an inside look at what it’s like to work at Ontario Parks.
Rachel Windsor has worked in Ontario Parks for six years. She started as a summer maintenance student for two seasons, then moved over to the park store at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. She trained under the park store manager for a season before taking over that role the following year.
Since 2015, Rachel has been acting in the Ops Tech role, taking the lead on the maintenance team and making sure park operations run smoothly.
1. What question do park visitors ask you most often?
Most of our visitors have questions about how they can best make use of the park: where are the best places to swim, where can they go fishing, where are they able to purchase firewood and camping supplies, where are the closest washrooms, or what trail is suitable for small children. It is gratifying to be able to provide accurate and detailed information to our visitors to help them make the most of their day.
I also frequently get asked, “How did you get your job?” or “What did you have to study in school to work in a park?” I love surprising people with my answer to the second question – I have a degree in Health Sciences!
2. What DON’T people know about your job?
People don’t realize that this job involves working a lot of weekends and holidays. I may not be a student anymore, but I still put in my time on every long weekend of the summer!
Also, although I manage the maintenance department, most of what we do comes down to customer service – making our visitors happy is the main priority, even if it means going out of the way of our normal daily routine to fix something for someone or to trim up their campsite. Being able to communicate with people is super important no matter what department of the park you work for!
3. What is your favourite part of your job?
I love when all the student staff start and the park comes alive again. Watching the students grow in skill and confidence as the summer goes on is super rewarding, and seeing them forge friendships with each other is one of the great parts of my job. I remember my student days as some of the most fun times I ever had while working a job, and it makes me happy to see them experiencing the same things I did.
I also am super proud of them when I see them do great work out in the park: when a cutting or trimming job looks good, when the facilities are clean, and when our visitors are happy.
4. How did you become an Ops Tech?
I became an Ops Tech through a combination of timing, experience, and a willingness to learn and take on the new role. I had graduated university, put in my summer as the park store manager, and then went travelling abroad during the winter.
When I returned, I had originally considered going back to school for further education, but then decided I wanted to continue my career in parks and further my skills here. I had successfully managed a team of students at the store and wanted to challenge myself, and expressed this interest to my supervisors. Fortunately, I was successful in securing the role as the Acting Operations Technician.
5. What’s your favourite time of year in the park?
Fall in the park is my favourite time of year. After Labour Day Weekend, the park really quiets down and things feel more peaceful, less fast-paced compared to the rush of summer.
The leaves start to change colours, the park looks its most beautiful, and the temperature is ideal for running or biking.