“Working up north was the most empowering experience of my life.”
Nineteen-year-old Katie Baillie-David left the comforts of home last June to drive 10 hours north to the wilds of Nagagamisis Provincial Park, northwest of Timmins. Visitors come from all over the US and Canada to enjoy the remoteness of the park – the fishing, swimming, northern lights and the quiet, unspoiled landscape – and so did Katie.
What she came away with was a life-changing experience.
“As a city girl working in park maintenance I learned so many new things that I would have never learned in the city like driving a one tonne truck, operating power tools and helping with small construction jobs. It was extremely empowering and a lot of fun.”
What? No cell phone coverage?
After graduating from high school, Katie (an aspiring marine biologist currently studying biology at university) worked for eight weeks as the only woman in park maintenance at Nagagamasis. No cell phone coverage. No Internet. Just a whole bunch of black flies and mosquitoes, not to mention toilets and fish stations to clean. All while wearing thick maintenance coveralls and work boots in the sweltering heat.
“I actually volunteered to work in park maintenance because I wanted to get the true park experience,” says Katie, which she undoubtedly did. Within days of her arrival, she was scooping up fish heads inside the fish cleaning station, cleaning toilets, taking water samples and even making trips to the dump using her newfound truck-driving skills. She loved every minute, and found it built confidence, self-esteem and teamwork skills.
Why employ students anyway?
“Students perform most of our operations throughout the park in the summer for us” says Tamara Flannigan, Superintendent of Chutes Provincial Park.
“They’re basically on a nine-week contract and during that time, they’re the face of the park to our visitors. They run our gate operations, our education program, our backcountry and park maintenance, pretty much everything. They’re a huge value to us.”
At Ontario Parks, there are many types of Park Ranger positions:
- Gate Attendant – Welcomes visitors, issues park permits, and responds to customer inquiries. Gate Attendants welcome everyone into a provincial park
- Interior Ranger – Maintains remote backcountry areas of the parks, reaching remote campsites by boat, portaging or hiking
- Administrative Assistant – Assists with clerical work and park administration. This position plays a key role in assisting with finances and scheduling
- GIS Data Technician – Uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to conduct data and spatial trend analysis. This position contributes to vital park development and species management projects
- Trail Maintenance – Ensures trails are accessible and safe for users by removing brush, up keeping trail surfaces and conducting inspections
- Discovery Ranger – Assists in developing and delivering programs to help visitors connect with the natural and cultural resources found within the park. This position supports conservation efforts by monitoring species that are invasive or at risk
- Maintenance Worker – Provides crucial services to the park and visitors, ensuring parks are maintained, pristine, and ready for guests
- Park Planner – Actively assists in the park planning program, enabling the continued growth of Ontario Parks
- Park Store Sales Clerk – Assists in maintaining park stores and gift boutiques. This position involves managing rentals, providing customer service and performing clerical work
Choosing Ontario Parks as a career
Many summer students go on to work for Ontario Parks as a full-time career because of the experience they gain as teenagers.
Rob Cunningham, Superintendent of Presqu’ile, credits his summer job as a stepping stone to the job he now loves:
“Working at Killarney when I was 16 as a junior park ranger was just one of the greatest jobs in my life and one of the greatest experiences a young person can have as a job,” says Cunningham.
“It’s a great job. You work hard, you meet lots of fantastic people who work with you and then you have the whole park to recreate in on your time off that people are paying to come and visit.
“When you’re a young person, working at a provincial park is a really formative experience that you remember for the rest of your life.”