A Natural Heritage Education Staff member holding a snack for children.

The call of the Park

Planning to visit a provincial park this summer? Looking for something different the whole family can do together? Why not take a walk on the ‘wild’ side? Discover how to track animals. Catch insects. Learn birdcalls – or communicate with wolves in the wild at night. Create nature-inspired art in the medium of your choice. Or find out how different species mate by attending a ‘Glee’-style musical!

Several people participating in different Natural Heritage Education programs.

If it’s history you’re after, you can follow in Samuel de Champlain’s footsteps and paddle a replica voyageur canoe on the Mattawa River. Head down under to the Mica Mine at Murphys Point to see what mining was like 100 years ago. Or discover the Aboriginal stories in the ancient rock carvings at Petroglyphs Provincial Park.

These are just a few of the interpretive programs offered every summer through the Ontario Parks’ Natural Heritage Education (NHE) program.  The goal of the program is to promote awareness and appreciation of our unique natural heritage – and help visitors build life-long connections to our parks. This year, nearly 300 enthusiastic and well-trained staff, many of them university and college students, will deliver close to 10,000 interpretive programs in 42 parks, with over half a million visitors expected to take part.

Several people taking part in Natural Heritage Education programming.

While programs vary from park to park, there’s something new and exciting to experience whatever your age or stage – or interests.

Ontario Parks Learning and Education Specialist Laurel Finney calls the NHE’s interpretive programs “the mints on the pillow.” All programs are free and you don’t need to register ahead of time. Just check the bulletin board when you arrive at your favourite park, or if you’re more of a planner, log on to the Parks’ events site at http://www.ontarioparks.com/events before you go. It gives you the list of parks that offer programs, as well as some of the bigger events taking place.