Unusual gifts from Ontario Parks

From nostalgic patches to A Lasting Gift program, Ontario Parks has unusual holiday gifts this year. The parks’ online store is where you’ll find most gift items.

Six patches make up the entire Ontario Parks’ patch collection. Each one is a design based on a park permits dating back to the 1950s and 60s. All are under $5 apiece. Bucket hats, ball caps, fitted shirts, T’s and sweatshirts are park-lover favourites found online at the Parks Store.You’ll also find stuffed animal toys as well as limited edition Robert Bateman prints representing park wildlife. Seasonal park permits allowing unlimited day-use entry to all Ontario Parks are great family gifts and range in price from $61.95 for a winter pass; $95.13 for a summer pass to $133.19 (+ HST) for an annual.

Park gift certificates come in denominations of $20 and can be used to purchase park merchandise or a new park experience. Why not try out some of the roofed accommodation available in Ontario Parks. Twenty new yurts are being added to the fifty-six others in Ontario Parks during the 2010-11 season. Bonnechere, Bon Echo, Sleeping Giant and others offer cabin stays too. For unique lodging, take a look at Maple Rest Heritage House at Sandbanks or Awenda’s cabin on the shores of Georgian Bay. These roofed accommodations are a way to extend the camping season and experience Ontario Parks in the spring, fall or winter periods. Gift certificates can also be used to purchase a learning vacation at a provincial park. The breadth and quality of these mini vacations are amazing. Sleeping Giant hosts a digital photography workshop every fall that is combined with catered meals and a lakeside cottage stay. Ferris has a how-to-build-a- stone wall workshop and Frontenac, one half hour north of Kingston, even offers year-round learning vacations. A February 19th snowshoe workshop will cover different styles of snowshoes, harnesses and snowshoeing techniques and includes a guided snowshoe hike. More workshops and other park programming can be found on the Ontario Parks’ event listings

There are many ways of giving back to Ontario Parks. A Lasting Gift program was launched in 2007 and can be earmarked for a specific park or project. Other ways of giving back to these special landscapes include donations to the twenty-seven “friends” groups directly associated with specific parks, and corporate sponsors who have been involved in research programs and other special initiatives. All three are integral to the preservation, enhancement and enjoyment of Ontario’s park system. The Friends of Algonquin Park sponsored a Wildlife Research Weekend last spring while corporate donors supported the upgrading of the park’s Spruce Boardwalk Trail. Swish Maintenance and Mountain Equipment Coop, corporate sponsors for the last ten years, have funded park research studies on Ontario turtles, butterflies, wolves, snakes, loons and even ancient Ontario trees. Every dollar donated benefits projects across the Ontario Parks system. To find out more about these opportunities visit A Lasting Gift , “Friends” groups and corporate sponsorships