Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
Always grateful for our friends.

In light of Ontario Parks’ 125th anniversary celebrations and International Friendship Day (July 30), this post highlights the history of hard work and support that Friends organizations have provided to provincial parks over the years. years.

What exactly are “friends”?

All friends are amazing, however ours go beyond typical friendships. Help improve our parks!

promenadeMembers of Friends of Mashkinonje completed work on a barrier-free trail

Friends of Ontario Parks are independent, non-profit charities. Friends Groups are dedicated to complementing and enhancing the unique educational, recreational, research, and resource protection mandates of the parks with which they are affiliated. Each Friends group is unique and contributes to park management and visitor experiences in different ways.

the first friends

It’s only fitting that our oldest provincial park, Algonquin Provincial Park, also has the oldest Friends organization. The Friends of Algonquin Park were established in 1983, 90 years after the park’s creation.

visitors on the road

The establishment of Friends of Algonquin Park laid the foundation for the formation of more Friends organizations in Ontario and 35 years later, we are grateful to have the support of 27 Friends groups.

It’s what friends do

Many campers will be familiar with the valuable work the Friends do to make their camping experiences more enjoyable and how they contribute to the successful operation of Ontario Parks. Below we highlight some examples of how Friends has improved our park system over the years.

A revitalized bird garden — Friends of Rondeau

Beginning of friendship: 1986

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In the summer of 2017, the Rondeau Provincial Park Visitor Center received some fantastic upgrades from the Friends of Rondeau. With the help of Return the Landscape and Maajiigin Gumig Native Plant Nursery, the bird garden has never looked better!

Bird/rain garden - newly designedNew Visitor Center Bird Garden

The garden’s unique design directs rainwater away from the building and creates a temporary pond where more plants can benefit from it. Inside the garden, you can see examples of the different habitats that make Rondeau so unique. Additionally, a non-slip platform has been extended along the edge of the garden, creating an accessible viewing area.

Inspiring New Artists: Friends of Killarney Park

Art in the Park Program in Killarney

Beginning of friendship: 1986

The Friends of Killarney Park are a big part of what makes Killarney Provincial Park so great. They have helped support the park in many areas such as: leading astronomy programs, operating the park store, cleaning the campground, and building/repairing many facilities for campers to enjoy.

The Friends also run the Artist in Residence and Art in the Park programs in Killarney. Resident artists host free workshops for campers and visitors to paint the beautiful landscapes they see in the park, following in the footsteps of the Group of Seven.

Protection of the territory — Friends of Frontenac

Beginning of friendship: 1992

In 2007, the Friends of Frontenac Provincial Park purchased property on Buck Lake that was added to the Frontenac Provincial Park protected area. This prevents that land from being developed privately in the future and therefore further safeguards the ecological integrity of the park.

View of Frontenac from the water on a sunny dayThe stunning natural beauty of Frontenac Provincial Park

The Friends of Frontenac continue to identify other potential properties of interest for acquisition that will contribute to the park’s protection mandate.

Improving accessibility — Friends of Sandbanks Park

Beginning of friendship: 1993

The Friends of Sandbanks Park support Sandbanks Provincial Park in maintaining, enhancing and protecting the park’s natural wonders.

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A recent project worth noting was the development of a barrier-free crossing through the dunes on the main beach, creating an accessible path for visitors with movement restrictions.

Barrier-free walkway at Sandbanks on a sunny dayBarrier-free walkway at Sandbanks

This project began in 2014. Since then, improvements and expansions have been made in the following years. The path not only improves accessibility, but has also minimized foot traffic within the dune ecosystem, allowing the dunes to stabilize and revegetate.

Provide a toilet for rural areas – Niijkiwenhwag – Friends of Lake Superior Park

Beginning of friendship: 1993

Niijkiwenhwag (nij-ki-wen-i-wog) is the Ojibwe word for “friends.” The Friends of Lake Superior Park have provided funding for numerous special projects over the years.

Small wooden structure with roof and single door in the forestComposting toilet in rural areas in Lake Superior Provincial Park

An example of a project they funded is this impressive backcountry composting toilet that was built in 2009 in Warp Bay along the coastal hiking trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Bringing History to Life: Friends of Murphys Point Park

Beginning of friendship: 1995

The Friends of Murphys Point Park focus on promoting public awareness and understanding of the geological, historical/archaeological, cultural and biological features of Murphys Point Provincial Park.

Three men dressed in ancient clothing and with pickaxes, working in a mineBoys working at the Silver Queen mine at Murphys Point

Since 2010, the Friends have been running a series of Silver Queen Mine tours in the park, previously included in the park’s Heritage Mica Days. This series was featured as one of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals for two years by Festivals and Events Ontario.

Research on species at risk — Friends of Killbear

Beginning of friendship: 2000

Boy in safety vest holding rope tied to black bucketResearch taking place in Killbear

The Friends of Killbear have significantly supported at-risk species research in Killbear Provincial Park, with a recent focus on the Massasauga rattlesnake and eastern fox snake. They have also supported research into the effectiveness of ecopasses and snake fences in preventing rattlesnake mortality.

A million thanks!

A special thank you to all of our friends for their tireless efforts, dedication, and amazing achievements! Thank you thank you thank you!

Do you want to get involved?

If you would like to get involved with a Friends group as a volunteer, donor or board member, please contact Friends of Ontario Parks organizations directly for opportunities.

If you are interested in starting a new Friends group in a park you love, contact your local park superintendent for more information about starting a Friends organization.