Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
A Summer at Sandbanks: Life as a Maintenance Student at Ontario Parks

Last summer, while other people my age were working in customer service or doing internships, I chose a job in beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park as a maintenance student.

Hello, my name is Hunter, I am a post-secondary student studying photojournalism and I am in the second year of my program. Last summer was my second season working at Sandbanks. While I may seem like an odd person out compared to many of my coworkers whose backgrounds or areas of study relate to natural sciences or the outdoors, working at Ontario Parks has been one of the best summer jobs, full of adventures and a lot of learning. .

What did you do all day?

There was no shortage of work that needed to be done in the park. The time his shift started decided his work for the day. The first shifts usually began by cleaning the comfort stations and picking up trash from the beach.

A small pile of trash sitting in the middle distance on a sandy beach

Weather and park capacity were also factors when planning the day’s tasks. Jobs such as cleaning up trash from the campground and parking lot and collecting propane cylinders were performed daily to keep up with the waves of campers, while other jobs such as grass maintenance in and around the campsites, excavation and replacement of fire pits and replacing picnic tables. as necessary.

The legs of a person with their orange helmet and ear protection resting on their right knee.  They are sitting on some type of small machine, like a lawnmower.
There were also interesting jobs that came up from time to time, like being sent into the city to pick up repair materials or bringing beach water samples to Kingston (this job was one of my favorites).

Another of my favorite jobs was cleaning trash from the beach in the morning. Most of the time, you hit the beach around 7:15. There would be a light breeze coming off the lake and the cheerful locals would wave good morning as they walked along the beach. It easily became my favorite part of the day.

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Of course, there were other jobs that I found difficult at times, due to my height (or lack thereof) or not having enough muscle to do it on my own. And there were some jobs I dreaded. My biggest challenge was work related to animals. As an animal lover, it was sad to pick up and dispose of dead animals and my germaphobe didn’t like picking up dead things in general. But luckily this wasn’t a big part of my job and most of the work was much more enjoyable.

What are your favorite memories?

During my summers in Sandbanks I’ve had experiences of everything from snakes in latrines to learning how to use equipment and fixing lots of clogged toilets, so it’s hard to narrow down my list of favourites. Although there are two that catch my attention the most.

One day I was cleaning latrines with a partner. As I was about to open the door of one of the latrines, I noticed a snake around the base. I have never run so fast in my life. I reached the truck and jumped back. My partner and I joked about it for the rest of the day. After we left that outhouse to clean up the others, my partner would try to scare me by pushing a broom handle under the door or waving a hose around to look like a snake. I still remember him vividly and he still makes me laugh.

The second memory is from mid-summer, when I finally had confidence in my abilities. I was able to do jobs without asking, see a job that needed to be done and be able to complete it in a couple of hours on my own.

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This will always be a proud memory that I will remember and carry with me into the future.

What are you most proud of?

As I mentioned, I really enjoyed my mornings cleaning the beach. But I discovered that every morning the previous day’s users left behind a large amount of beach toys. This was discouraging because many of the toys were still in perfect or usable condition, but since they had been left behind, they would be swept up in the trash to be taken away.

A spark of inspiration arose when seeing the numerous abandoned buckets and shovels that dot the beach. When I raised the issue with my coworkers and supervisors, they confirmed that they had seen the same issue.

Two buckets of red sand, children's beach toys, sitting on a wooden picnic table at the beach

So, with the support of my supervisors and coworkers, I created a program that would create a way to give abandoned toys another chance to make visitors happy during their time at the beach. The project overview is quite simple. The idea and creating the container were the easy parts. The paperwork to make this project a staple at Sandbanks every year… not so much.

But in the end, I created a place where the toys could be collected and placed them in highly visible places for visitors. This allowed visitors to leave unwanted toys or use available toys during their time at the beach. It was amazing to be able to create something that will enhance the beach for years to come.

All in all, my summer was full of adventures, a lot of learning, and some tough situations. If you are a student or recent graduate looking for a summer position, I definitely recommend taking the opportunity to work in a provincial park. Working in parks gives you many opportunities to try new things and gain experiences that will last a lifetime.

Sunset over a lake, framed by trees in the middle distance

Applications for the 2023 season are now open! Learn more about available opportunities and how to apply on our website.