A Day in the Life of… A Park Superintendent

Ontario Parks is introducing a short new feature to the blog site highlighting some of the jobs in the Ontario parks system. We have been visiting Ontario Parks, and interviewing staff for their insight and stories about their job.

We hope you enjoy our first article, which tells you all about a day in the life of a Park Superintendent!

Chris Tomsett was looking for something to keep him busy, and that is definitely what he found. In 1974, he had been working on a fire crew during a slow fire season, and when an opportunity came up to work at Halfway Lake Provincial Park he took it. He began his career in Ontario Parks building a new campground at Halfway Lake, and 34 years later he is the superintendent of MacGregor Point, Sauble Falls, and Inverhuron provincial parks.

What is a typical day like for a park superintendent? As Chris says, “It does vary all the time.” A superintendent is in charge of the park, and the type of work depends on the park’s size and operations.

While he admits to spending 85% of his time in the office (the part of the job he dislikes the most), he also deals with a variety of issues outside of the office. These range from customer-related matters, sewage pump problems in the parks, resource management issues, or communicating on a regular basis with outside stakeholders and partners. According to Chris, the best part about his job is when he gets to interact with park staff, campers and volunteers. “It’s great meeting all the different people through the job. I certainly find that interesting,” he says. On the day of the interview, Chris had been discussing a potential burial at Inverhuron’s pioneer cemetery. There is never a dull moment!

As a superintendent of such a large park, there are many moments which stand out in his career. One of the most memorable for Chris has been re-building and re-opening the campground at Inverhuron. The park had been closed for 30 years due to safety issues, as it was adjacent to a nuclear plant. When these safety issues changed in 1998, Inverhuron was allowed to re-open. After years of work, and close to 4 million dollars, the campground was re-opened in July 2005 and was a huge success. “It was instantly full,” Chris explained, “All of the people that had camped there 30 years before, remembered camping there. It has been extremely popular since, so that certainly is very satisfying.”

During his days off, Chris still spends time in Ontario’s parks. He likes to kayak and hike down the French River and into Algonquin Park and enjoys seeing the interior of many parks. As for his favourite? “I better say MacGregor,” he says, “I have worked here for 25 years.”

Throughout his career, Chris has worked at five different parks and has been a superintendent at three. Clearly, he enjoys working for Ontario Parks, and is able to see the effect of his work on the public. “People really like camping in provincial parks,” Chris says, as he talks about his career, “Some people have said it’s the culture of Ontario, and I think that’s very true.”