Preparing to celebrate our 125th anniversary had us searching through archives for old photographs and documents. Throughout the year, we will share our discoveries in our OP125 blog series.
This month, we look at the evolution of our park uniforms.
When Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario’s first provincial park) was created in 1893, park rangers did not have uniforms. They wore a ranger badge with their bush clothing.
The first model of Algonquin ranger insignia was made of molded brass. This particular badge was issued to gamekeeper Robert Balfour.
Worn by Stephen J. Waters, park ranger from 1893 to 1912. In the photo below, you can see Stephen wearing his badge.
Park visitor (left) meets ranger Stephen Waters while patrolling, 1897
In the late 1920s, there were formal blue uniforms that Algonquin rangers wore to meet the train, however, they were rarely worn because they were not practical for working in the forest.
In the 1930s and 1940s, there are written accounts of the first ranger uniforms, but the next photograph we have is from 1951.
Algonquian naturalist Al Hemsley in khaki uniform, 1951
Beginning in 1947, a crest with the words “Ontario Lands and Forests” was created and worn on the sleeves of uniforms. The shields also had various departments and positions labeled (see uniform above).
Superintendent records drinking water samples, Restoule Provincial Park, July 1967
The Department of Lands and Forests administered Ontario’s provincial parks until it was reorganized and became the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1972.
This style of shield became the official shield of the provincial parks program within the new Ministry of Natural Resources in 1973.
Pat Walsh wears a jacket with the park warden’s crests. This badge was developed in 1976 when the park ranger program was launched.
Larger crests were developed for use on jackets in 1982 and remained the same until 1988.
Mikisew Provincial Park gate staff, 1985
Park staff and volunteers wearing the new green and yellow shields, Quetico Provincial Park, 1989
Beginning in 1988, the park’s uniform crests became bilingual. More text was included on the shields than in previous versions.
Quetico Provincial Park naturalist Shan Walshe wearing the uniform with the yellow bilingual crests
Around the same time, the uniform crests changed slightly to include some green text. This change was made in response to complaints of too much yellow in the previous shield.
In 1996, Ontario’s provincial parks system adopted a new business operating model and officially became Ontario Parks. This was symbolized by a new brand and logo that remains to this day. The new look also meant new uniforms!
Park ranger and gate staff at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park
In 1997, the uniform changed from beige and brown to beige and navy blue. New badges were created and a polo shirt with the Ontario Parks logo on the chest was also introduced.
Learn to be a camp leader from a park visitor, Sibbald Point Provincial Park
Park uniforms have changed and evolved over time; however, the staff at Ontario Parks has always worn our hearts on our sleeves.
Thanks to the dedication and hard work of park staff, Ontario Parks is known as one of the best park systems in the world.
Maintenance Worker, Turkey Point Provincial Park
To commemorate the 125th anniversary of Ontario Parks, park staff will wear a commemorative pin on their uniforms throughout 2018. The pin design is inspired by the original Department of Lands and Forests logo.