Women of Ontario Parks

Women of Ontario Parks

Happy International Women’s Day!

At Ontario Parks, we simply couldn’t do without our female team members. They work as biologists, instructors, wardens, superintendents, managers and more.

Here’s the inside scoop on what our women are up to:

Sandy White, Zone Manager

Sandy White beside helicopter

Sandy started her career as a Junior Ranger at Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park in 1981. Thirty years later, she became Ontario Parks’ first-ever female Zone Manager, overseeing all parks in southeastern Ontario!

Tracey Snarr, Park Superintendent

Tracey Snarr in canoe

Tracey started her Ontario Parks career in 1984 as a maintenance student at Ferris Provincial Park. She became a superintendent in 1998, making her our longest-serving active female superintendent!

“When I started in the parks program, it was not a common for females to be working in either enforcement or management capacities, so those early years presented some challenges. Over the years, it has been encouraging to me to see the demographic of our organization evolve to become more diverse.”

Alison Lake, Algonquin Park Biologist

Alison Lake holding snapping turtle

As a Park Biologist at Algonquin Provincial Park, Alison’s work overlaps with her personal passions of bird-watching, canoe-tripping and spending as much time outside as possible.

“My favourite part of my job is making ecological integrity the starting point of every decision I make to best protect and support the wild spaces in our Park system.

“Since I started my working career, I have heard the term ‘the first woman to…’ applied less and less frequently to me and my female colleagues. As I watch the next generation start their careers in Parks, I look forward to the day when all the ‘firsts’ for women are done.”

Melanie Milczynski, Zone Manager

Melanie Milczynski

Melanie’s had a busy Ontario Parks career! Before becoming Zone Manager for the Southwest Zone, she’s also worked as a Park Clerk, Operations Technician and Superintendent, as well as working in the Deputy Minister’s Office.

Some of Mel’s favourite tasks have included:

  • grooming ski trails first thing in the morning after fresh snow
  • snuggling a baby bear during research projects at Algonquin
  • working on the water (by boat, by canoe — any water!)

“I’ve had great role models and mentors that helped me build a career in parks, and I really enjoy being able to now provide leadership and support to others in the same way.”

Chelsey Kehoe, Learn to Fish Leader

Chelsey, Learn to Fish leader

One of the program’s original instructors, Chelsey’s been an integral part of Learn to Fish. She’s taught at Emily Provincial Park for the past three summers, inspiring hundreds of campers — including young girls — with her passion for fishing.

“One of the many reasons I enjoy teaching this fantastic program is the look on a child or adult’s face when they catch their first fish, how excited they get while reeling it in. Seeing that expression on their face makes me  feel that maybe I have hooked them on fishing.”

Nancy Daigle by waterfallsNancy Daigle, Park Superintendent

As Park Superintendent of the Cochrane Cluster, Nancy is responsible for over 25 parks, including Kettle Lakes and Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Parks.

“My favourite part of the job is the variety of my day-to-day activities. One day I’m in Polar Bear Provincial Park surrounded by caribou, and the next day I’m sourcing merchandise for our park stores. Never a dull moment!”

Melody Cairns, Zone Ecologist

Melody Cairns on prescribed burn

Melody’s spent 13 years working at Ontario Parks. Her favourite part of the job is spending time outdoors every field season, working in the diverse ecosystems of Ontario’s southwest.

“I’ve gotten to do mammal surveys by helicopter, colonial waterbird surveys by boat, resource management activities like prescribed burning and controlling invasive species, and just generally gotten exposure to some of the rarest species and ecological communities in Ontario.

“In today’s OPS, I see women doing every job imaginable, even those that have been more male-dominated in past years. Truly, there’s no limit to where we can go or what we can do.”

Marilyn Manson, Senior Park ClerkMarilyn_Manson

Over her 30 years at Ontario Parks, Marilyn’s seen a lot of change.

“When I started at Murphys Point, there wasn’t a computer, no reservation system. I did all the reservations by myself at the office, as well as all administration!

“I am so pleased to see women growing within the OPS – especially Ontario Parks – pleased to see many women taking on more management positions. This is wonderful growth for sure and too long coming!”

Josie Grenier, Assistant Park Superintendent

Josie Grenier winter atv

In just 10 years, Josie’s worked in more than 20 provincial parks! She’s been a Park Warden, an Enforcement Coordinator, a Zone Warden and an Assistant Park Superintendent, among other positions, and she’s always up for challenge:

“My day can quickly shift from being on a conference call to responding to a bear in the campgrounds. Each day in the life of an Assistant Park Superintendent is different and sometimes unpredictable which makes it exciting!

“I’m so lucky to be working in these protected areas, surrounded by nature and observing wildlife almost daily. Getting up for work is easy!”

Julie Foster, Park Superintendent

Julie Foster planting dune grass at Long Point

Some of Julie’s top projects have included becoming an enforcement officer and tackling ecological projects, like dune restoration, invasive species control and prescribed burns.

Part of the OPS initiative to reduce stigma and bring awareness about mental health illness, Julie is a Mental Health First Aid instructor. Julie has also been a member of the MNRF Peer Support Program for over 10 years:

“Working with so many young people over the years and seeing them develop and move throughout the organization…It’s great to see them succeed in achieving their life’s goals and humbling to have them share the impact you’ve had on their lives.”

Want to read more about the wonderful women of Ontario Parks? Check out our Facebook gallery, or tune in to our #IWD2016 posts on Twitter!