Park warden from the 80's crouches beside a site permit and holder

Then & Now: park uniforms

Gearing up to celebrate our 125th anniversary had us digging through archives in search of vintage photos and documents. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing our discoveries in our OP125 blog series.

This month, we’re looking back at the evolution of our park uniforms.

When Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario’s first provincial park) was created in 1893, park rangers did not have uniforms. They wore a ranger badge with their bush clothes.

Black and white image of a circular brass pin, including the Ontario crest, that says Algonquin Park Ranger.
The first model of Algonquin’s park ranger badge was made of molded brass. This particular badge was issued to Ranger Robert Balfour
Pin including Province of Ontario crest saying Algonquin Park Ranger
Worn by Stephen J. Waters, park ranger from 1893 to 1912. In the photo below, Stephen can be seen wearing his badge
Two men outside a primitive cabin circa 1897. Men are surrounded by various hides being stretched.
Park visitor (left) meets Ranger Stephen Waters on patrol, 1897

During the late 1920s, there were formal blue uniforms for Algonquin rangers to wear for meeting the train, however they were hardly worn as they were not practical for working in the woods.

In the 1930s and 1940s, there are written accounts of early park ranger uniforms, but the next photo we have is from 1951.

Algonquin Naturalist Al Hemsley in khaki uniform, 1951

Starting in 1947, a crest with the words “Lands & Forests Ontario” was created and worn on the sleeves of uniforms. The crests also had various departments and positions labelled on them (see uniform above).

Black and white image. Two male park staff sampling water and recording, stand in front of a platform. In the background stands a little kid watching on.
Superintendent records drinking water sampling, Restoule Provincial Park, July, 1967

The Department of Lands and Forests managed Ontario’s provincial parks until it reorganized and become the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1972.

This style of crest became the official crest for the provincial parks program within the new Ministry of Natural Resources in 1973.

Park Warden fro the 70's on a sunny day speaking into a two-way radio
Pat Walsh sports a jacket with the park warden crests. This badge was developed in 1976 when the park warden program was launched

Larger crests were developed in 1982 for use on jackets and they remained the same until 1988.

a male and a female gate attendant pose with Smokey the Bear statue
Gate staff at Mikisew Provincial Park, 1985
6 Park staff and volunteers from the 80's posing together outside a dark brown cabin
Park staff and volunteers wearing the new green and yellow crests, Quetico Provincial Park, 1989

Starting in 1988, the crests on the park uniforms became bilingual. More text was included on the crests than previous versions.

Park Warden stepping out of canoe with a bright yellow crest on this shoulder
Quetico Provincial Park Naturalist Shan Walshe wearing the uniform with the yellow bilingual crests

Around the same time, the uniform crests changed slightly to include some text in green. This change was made in response to complaints of too much yellow on the previous crest.

In 1996, Ontario’s provincial park system adopted a new entrepreneurial operating model and officially became Ontario Parks. This was symbolized by a new brand and logo which remains to this day. The new image also meant new uniforms!

Three park staff standing together in front of truck
Park warden and gate staff at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

In 1997, the uniform shifted from beige and brown to beige and navy blue. New crests were created and a polo shirt featuring the Ontario Parks logo on the chest was also introduced.

Park staff showing something not visible to a park visitor by his car
Learn to Camp leader with park visitor, Sibbald Point Provincial Park

Park uniforms have changed and evolved over time, however Ontario Parks staff have always worn our hearts on our sleeves.

It is thanks to the dedication and hard work of park staff that Ontario Parks is known as one of the best park systems in the world.

Guy with yellow hard hat standing beside white Ontario Parks truck
Maintenance worker, Turkey Point Provincial Park

To commemorate Ontario Parks’ 125th Anniversary, park staff will be wearing a commemorative pin on their uniforms throughout 2018. The design of the pin is inspired by the original Department of Lands and Forests logo.

small metal pin on the fonrt pocket of a beige parks shirt that says, Ontario Parks, 125 years, 1893 2013

Do you have any vintage camping photos from your time spent in Ontario Parks? Share your photos with us using #OP125 @OntarioParks.