Today’s post comes from Rachelle Law, Discovery Leader at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
Sleeping Giant is known for several things, one of them being our awe-inspiring views of the Sleeping Giant.
Another is our park cleaner nicknamed “Maw”, who is retiring from the park this year.
Working at the park for 39 years, Maw has become part of the true fabric of the park. She has left an extraordinary impact on the park, visitors and staff.
The origins of “Maw”
Believe it or not, Maw’s real name is Carol Cooney!
When asked about the origins of her unforgettable nickname, she shared: “The nickname Maw originated from the kids in Pass Lake, Ontario, that hung out at my house with my kids. And they didn’t know what to call me, so they started to call me Maw, and it stuck!”
To this day, park visitors and staff refer to Carol as Maw.
It’s a fitting nickname for her, as she is a motherly figure in the park. Her personality is loving, caring, and friendly. She takes care of all those who come under her wing and she’s not afraid to keep you in line, either!
Witnessing 39 years of change
Maw started working at the park in 1981 and has been witness to the many changes throughout the years.
When remembering her first years at the park, Maw recalled, “We wore our own clothes and we didn’t have uniforms, so we wore jeans and t-shirts. I didn’t have a truck or vehicle, I was dropped off in the morning with a bucket, a mop, a broom, and cleaning supplies.
“I walked from toilet to toilet and they picked me up for my coffee breaks. I worked toilets for five years, then moved to maintenance and I’ve been on it ever since.”
Since then, she says the park has greatly changed. Maw and park staff used to walk everywhere they needed to go.
Some of her fondest memories are hiking in the backcountry with the Junior Rangers and camping overnight with them at Tee Harbour.
Now that the park has mules (UTVs), staff can access the trails and backcountry of the park more easily.
During Maw’s time she’s been part of creating the 200s and 300s campsite section of the park, and two new comfort stations. Maw even played an important role in the creation of the park’s Visitor Centre!
Specifically, Maw remembers helping with cutting, peeling, and preparing all the logs for the building.
She recalled, “I had to go every morning with Javex and a broom and clean every single one of the logs to make sure the sun wouldn’t bleach them. Then cover them up with tarps.”
To this day, Maw’s legacy lives on in the Visitor Centre, as builders made sure to place a log that has her name engraved into it inside the building. This log is symbolic of her presence and impact that will never leave the park once she’s gone.
Maw has also witnessed the increasing number of campers and visitors that come to Sleeping Giant each year. She recalls that once the park got electric hookups for RVs, it was a big draw for visitors. She remarked, “The RVs kept getting bigger and bigger, too!”
With a glitter of wisdom in her eyes, Maw shared, “It’s been a very big experience in my life, because I didn’t like change. But obviously, I had to change. You have to go with the flow.”
What kept her coming back for 39 years?
When asked what kept her coming back to work at the park year after year, Maw said, “I love my job and I loved working with the kids. I love the campground and I love to keep it clean. I love the people and I love all my bosses.
“I told the kids a thousand times, you don’t know how lucky you are to work in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. It is the best place in the world for a summer job for kids and myself.”
A lasting and unforgettable impact
Maw is the type of person who leaves a lasting impression. She is truly unforgettable. There is no way to possibly count the incredible impacts she has had on the park.
Wearing a warm and friendly smile, Maw makes park visitors feel instantly welcome in the park. Her outstanding customer service has allowed her to form long lasting friendships with park visitors who come here year after year.
Hundreds of park staff have come under her wing in the maintenance department and at the park.
Her high training and cleaning standards for new staff have allowed the park to gain a reputation for being one of the cleanest parks in Ontario. She has shaped many staff into who they are today both professionally and personally.
When asked about her connections with park staff throughout the years, she remembered, “It’s been excellent. I’ve even kept in touch with the ones I worked with when I first started, and that is fantastic. I just kept coming back and I guess it’s because I like working with kids.”
A hard worker that gets things done!
Ask anyone who has worked with Maw over her 39 years at the park and they will share their amazement at her energy and spunky spirit.
At 80 years old, Maw is constantly buzzing with energy and keeps us all on our toes. She sets an incredible example for all the student staff that join our park staff teams each year. She is a true inspiration to park staff and shows us what it means to live life to the fullest.
Showing her tough-as-nails spirit, Maw has even hiked up the Giant several times in recent years, which is no easy feat!
What’s next for Maw?
After being asked what’s next for her, Maw sat and pondered for a while.
She shared, “It took me about six months to make up my mind about retiring. I want to be able to visit my grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
Even after retiring, Maw still dreams of helping the park: “I may come back and volunteer to clean the campground, who knows. I might buy a trailer and come camp in the park. You don’t know where life’s taking you.”
Whatever Maw gets up to in her retirement, one thing is for certain: her love for the park and her desire to make it a better place will always stay with us and her inspiring legacy will continue to live on.
Saying a hard goodbye
Maw will be greatly missed by park staff and visitors.
We wish her a wonderful retirement and congratulate her on her extraordinary lifetime achievements.
We thank her for her 39 years of service and incredible contributions to Sleeping Giant Provincial park!