Today’s post comes from Rachelle Law, discovery leader at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
The Sleeping Giant is known for several things, one of them being our stunning views of the Sleeping Giant.
Another is our park cleaner, nicknamed “Maw,” who retired from the park last year.
Working at the park for 39 years, Maw has become part of the true fabric of the park. She has left an extraordinary impact on the park, visitors and staff.
The origins of “Maw”
Believe it or not, Maw’s real name is Carol Cooney!
When asked about the origin of his unforgettable nickname, he shared: “The nickname Maw originated from kids from Pass Lake, Ontario who hung out at my house with my kids. And they didn’t know what to call me, so they started calling me Maw, and it stuck!
To this day, park visitors and staff refer to Carol as Maw.
It’s a fitting nickname for her, as she is a motherly figure in the park. Her personality is affectionate, attentive and friendly. She takes care of all those under her protection and she’s not afraid to keep you in line either!
Witnessing 39 years of change
Maw began working at the park in 1981 and has seen many changes over the years.
Recalling her early years at the park, Maw recalled, “We wore our own clothes and didn’t have uniforms, so we wore jeans and T-shirts. I didn’t have a truck or vehicle, they left me in the morning with a bucket, a mop, a broom and cleaning supplies.
“I walked from bathroom to bathroom and they picked me up for my coffee breaks. “I worked in bathrooms for five years, then I moved into maintenance and I’ve been doing this ever since.”
Since then, he says, the park has changed a lot. The mothers and park staff used to walk everywhere they needed to go.
Some of his fondest memories include countryside walks with the Junior Rangers and camping overnight with them at Tee Harbour.
Now that the park has UTVs, staff can more easily access the park’s trails and backcountry areas.
During Maw’s time, she was involved in the creation of the 200 and 300 campground section of the park, and two new comfort stations. Maw even played a role in the creation of the park’s Visitor Center!
Specifically, Maw remembers helping cut, peel, and prepare all the logs for the building.
She recalled: “I had to go every morning with Javex and a broom and clean each of the logs to make sure the sun didn’t bleach them. Then cover them with tarps.”
To this day, Maw’s legacy lives on at the Visitor Center, as the builders made sure to place a log with his name engraved inside the building. This trunk symbolizes her presence and her impact, that she will never leave the park once she is gone.
Maw has also witnessed the growing number of campers and visitors who come to Sleeping Giant each year. She remembers that once the park got electric hookups for RVs, it was a big draw for visitors. She commented, “RVs were getting bigger and bigger too!”
With a gleam of wisdom in her eyes, Maw shared: “It has been a very important experience in my life, because I didn’t like change. But obviously I had to change. “You have to go with the flow.”
What kept you coming back for 39 years?
When asked what kept her coming back to work at the park year after year, Maw said, “I love my job and I love working with the kids. I love camping and I love keeping it clean. I love people and I love all my bosses.
“I told the kids a thousand times: You don’t know how lucky you are to work at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. “It’s the best place in the world for a summer job for the kids and me.”
A lasting and unforgettable impact
Maw is the kind of person who leaves a lasting impression. She is truly unforgettable. There is no way to tell the incredible impacts she has had on the park.
With a warm and friendly smile, Maw makes park visitors feel instantly welcome. Her excellent customer service has allowed her to form lasting friendships with park visitors who come here year after year.
Hundreds of park employees have been under his protection in the maintenance department and at the park.
Their high level of training and cleanliness for new staff has allowed the park to earn a reputation as one of the cleanest parks in Ontario. She has made many employees who they are today, both professionally and personally.
When asked about his connections with park staff over the years, he recalled, “It’s been great. I’ve even kept in touch with those I worked with when I started, and that’s fantastic. “I kept coming back and I guess it’s because I like working with kids.”
A great worker who gets things done!
Ask anyone who has worked with Maw during her 39 years at the park and they will share their amazement at her energy and brave spirit.
Maw with Sleeping Giant park superintendent when he was a ranger on the park’s backcountry trail in 2014. At age 74, Maw climbed the Giant and they enjoyed a tea break on the bench together.
At 80 years old, Maw is constantly full of energy and keeps us all on our toes. She is an incredible example to all of the student staff who join our park staff teams each year. She is a true inspiration to the park staff and shows us what it means to live life to the fullest.
Maw with Junior Rangers after hiking to the top of the Sleeping Giant
Showing off her tough-as-nails spirit, Maw has even climbed the Giant several times over the years, which is no easy feat!
What’s next for Maw?
After being asked what’s next for her, Maw sat and reflected for a while.
She shared: “It took me about six months to decide to retire. “I want to be able to visit my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Even after retiring, Maw still dreams of helping the park: “Maybe I’ll come back and volunteer to clean up the campground, who knows. You could buy a trailer and camp in the park. “You don’t know where life takes you.”
Whatever Maw does in his retirement, one thing is certain: his love for the park and his desire to make it a better place will always remain with us and his inspiring legacy will live on.
Saying a hard goodbye
Maw will be greatly missed by park staff and visitors.
We wish her a wonderful retirement and congratulate her on her extraordinary life achievements.
We thank you for your 39 years of service and incredible contributions to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park!