Welcome to our “5 Questions” series! We chatted with park staff across the province to give you an inside look at what it’s like to work at Ontario Parks.
Acting Deputy Minister Bruce Bateman began his career at Bon Echo in the summer of 1978. He has risen from the gatehouse to the ADM office, with stops as park superintendent, zone administrator and director along the way.
What did you do as director of Ontario Parks?
I worked with my management team to establish the strategic direction of the organization. Where are we going in the next five years? What do we want to work on?
I also represented Ontario Parks nationally and internationally. For example, I sit on a committee called the Canadian Parks Council with directors from across the country as well as from Parks Canada. We work together on matters of common interest.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Visit parks. Our strength is the people who work for us. I get to meet them and see what they do on a day-to-day basis. To listen to their concerns and know what they need from me. That’s the fun part of the job.
You must have visited many Ontario parks over the years. Have you been to all of them?
Not even close. We have 340 parks in the province.
I’ve been to some really unique parks though. Voyageur Provincial Park in the southeast corner of the province. Kakabeka Falls and Sleeping Giant in the Thunder Bay area.
I even had the opportunity to visit Polar Bear Provincial Park on the coast of James Bay and Hudson Bay. We took a tour of the central Canadian radar site before it was remediated.
It was a big cleaning project. They removed old buildings and vehicles, asbestos. Tons of contaminated soil. Thousands of barrels of PCBs, oil and toxins. That’s why the team received the Environment Commissioner’s Award of Merit. I want to get up and watch it again, to see the difference.
Do you have any personal favorites?
Grundy Lake, I spent some time there. Killbear is a unique park. But Bon Echo: it has a place in my heart.
It is known for Bon Echo Rock, this large granite boulder jutting out of Mazinaw Lake. And along the base of the rock is Canada’s largest collection of indigenous pictographs.
At the beginning of the 20th century a large inn was built at Bon Echo, right on the water’s edge. It was built before roads existed. People arrived by stagecoach or in carts.
The Group of Seven went up there to paint. The inn burned down in 1936, but some of the outbuildings are still there.
So Bon Echo has this unique history from before contact with indigenous people to European settlement. It’s a great place to be.
If I gave you a week’s all-expenses-paid vacation (any season, any park in Ontario), where would you go and what would you do?
Where would I go? You know, I never saw a polar bear when I was in Polar Bear Provincial Park. I would love to go up again, see a polar bear, see a caribou.
It’s a place I can’t get to on my own. So if I had all expenses paid I would probably go there.
Check out our other “5 Questions” posts for more inside information on Ontario parks!
Students: do you want to follow in Bruce’s footsteps? Applications for our summer student ranger positions are open!