Last year marked the 125th anniversary of Ontario Parks.th Anniversary: 125 years of campfires, hikes, nights under the stars, beach days and unforgettable family memories from the countless visitors who use our beautiful park system.
This year marks two more important anniversaries: the 125th anniversary of Rondeau Provincial Park and 75 years of interpretation in Ontario parks!
The first interpreter.
Interpretation, now a fundamental part of our Discovery Program, is not just about educating visitors about geographic features or significant historical moments; It’s much more than that.
It’s about sharing the stories of each park with its visitors in ways that inspire understanding, wonder or passion in each of them. Finding ways to connect these unique and beautiful spaces to the hearts and minds of those who will listen.
In 1944, Professor Dymond became the first seasonal interpreter at Algonquin Provincial Park. He laid the foundation for a very successful model that would eventually be used in more than 70 provincial parks.
An exciting project
In 1955, Rondeau, Ontario’s second provincial park, followed suit and hired Richard “Dick” Davy Ussher as its first full-time naturalist.
With a degree in forestry and a formative personality, Dick organized an ambitious program of walks, guided trails, exhibits and lectures to introduce visitors to the unique beauty of the park.
It was Dick’s personal charm with the natural world that made his programming so memorable. He lived Rondeau!
With a house right outside the park gates, he was able to fully immerse himself in Rondeau’s history. From botany to birds, from forestry to human history, he knew it all well.
Ussher published many accounts and species lists, flowering guides, and notes on bird migration, which were instrumental in park planning and environmental monitoring within Rondeau.
This formed important baseline data for current staff to work from and leverage.
Many of his specimen collections are still used in the park today and others have been sent to the Royal Ontario Museum for safekeeping.
Ussher was present to see the current Rondeau Visitor Center open to the public in 1964 before retiring from the field in 1969.
Many visitors remember Dick on the trails, standing with his hands on his hips and looking up at the trees as if he knew them all.
His expert knowledge of the park helped define its status as a biodiversity hotspot and has since inspired future generations of park interpreters.
Special thanks to Daryl Smith, Steve Patterson, Allen Woodliffe and Bob Gray for providing information.