When asked to name his favourite Ontario Park, Tobi Kiesewalter wonders, “How do I answer that?” He is not only an Ontario Parks employee, but a true fan of what he calls, some of the best real estate in the world. It is no surprise that as the Senior Natural Heritage Education Leader at Murphys Point Provincial Park, Tobi’s job is to encourage a connection between the park and its visitors.
Tobi began his career in Ontario Parks in Natural Heritage Education (NHE) at Murphys Point as a Resource Inventory Technician. Now, 13 years later, he coordinates the entire NHE program in the park.
As the Senior NHE Leader, a large part of the job involves running the interpretive programs. As Tobi puts it, “Interpretation is a communication process that forges links between the audience and the resources that we have in our parks. The types of programs that take place at Murphys Point include evening presentations at the amphitheatre, children’s programs, guided nature hikes, tours of the Silver Queen Mine, spirit walks, prop talks, and programs at the Visitor Centre. These programs are available to anyone who visits the park, including day users or overnight campers. What I like about interpretation is that it’s a little different from education, and it’s not quite entertainment. It’s a combination of the two,” Tobi explains. “What we try to do is connect our audience with the unique features of the park so that it inspires them to learn more about it.”
Tobi is a strong advocate for delivering positive messages about the park wildlife to help avoid negative incidents such as black ratsnakes being run over by cars. “You get to really work with and appreciate these animals. When something bad happens to them, it affects you personally,” he says. As part of his job, Tobi has been interviewed for radio programs, print media, and television. In fact, he was preparing for a television appearance on a local morning show where he was planning to discuss the black ratsnake. “One of our real mandates with the snake program is education, and to pass on positive messaging about snakes,” Tobi explains, saying that he feels snakes have an identity crisis. “They are nothing to worry about, and in fact are something really unique and special.”
The most memorable moments in Tobi’s career involve the special events that bring everyone at the park together. “We’re all working together on this one program, and staff from other departments volunteer their time so it gets to be a bit of a bonding moment for all park staff. It’s really fun,” Tobi explains. Some of the special events which take place involve the staff dressing up in period costumes, and talking about the cultural history of the park in character. “It is those events that stand out and are above and beyond what we normally do for our day-to-day program,” Tobi says.
According to Tobi, delivering an interpretive program himself or observing the response of the customers to the program is the best part of his job. “It’s really gratifying and satisfying to see that a lot of our visitors are getting their inspiration, or their early start into their careers as a biologist, as a result of the programs we deliver,” he says, “We get those kind of comments all the time, and it’s really fun to see that. It’s the most rewarding part of the job.”
And, for the record, his favourite Ontario Park is, Murphys Point, with Frontenac a close second.
For more information on NHE programs in Ontario Parks, visit our website and click on Visiting Parks then scroll down to Park Events.