Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
Then and now: vehicle permits

Preparing to celebrate our 125th anniversary leads us to review archives in search of old photographs and documents. Throughout the year, we will share our discoveries in our OP125 blog series.

This month, we take a look at a collection of Ontario Parks vehicle permits dating back to 1957. Purchased and displayed on the front dashboard of a vehicle, these permits would provide people with unlimited daily vehicle entry to all of Ontario’s provincial parks. Ont.

Park entrance from the 1950s or 1960s with two park rangers in the shot, one of whom is speaking from the passenger side of a car.  The visible signs say "Park entrance permits" and "STOP PARK ENTRANCE PERMITS"

At first

The oldest vehicle permit currently in the collection is from 1957. The permit features the Ontario coat of arms and a classic depiction of a camping scene.

Shield with an illustrated camping scene inside, with the text Ontario Provincial Parks Vehicle Permit Department of Lands and Forests 1957, topped with a coat of arms of the province of Ontario.

The Department of Lands and Forests oversaw provincial parks until they were reorganized in 1972 to become the Ministry of Natural Resources.

true harvest

The 1959 permit highlights Ontario’s provincial flower, the White Trillium. The White Trillium was adopted as a provincial flower in 1937.

Bright red background with a stylized trillium illustrated in the foreground in color (green leaves, white flowers).  Text: Ontario Provincial Parks, 1959, Vehicle Permit, Department of Lands and Forests

In 1963, the beautiful Monarch Butterfly appeared prominently on the vehicle’s registration certificate. In 2008, the monarch was listed as a species of special concern on the List of Species at Risk in Ontario.

Illustration of a monarch butterfly, sitting on a white flower with green foliage, all on a blue background.  The text reads "1963, Ontario Provincial Parks, Department of Lands and Forests

In 1967, of course, Canada’s national animal, the beaver, was illustrated.

Illustrated beaver, on an orange maple leaf, on a blue-gray background.  Text States " Ontario Provincial Parks, 1967, Canada Centennial, Department of Lands and Forests"

In 1970, Polar Bear Provincial Park was created and this achievement appeared on that year’s vehicle permit. Polar Bear is the northernmost provincial park in Ontario, as well as the largest at 24,000 square kilometers.

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Illustrated polar bear, inside a circle, on a silver gray and blue background.  The text reads "Ontario Provincial Parks, 1970"

The 1973 vehicle permit is the only circular design permit in the collection.

Circular image of an illustrated pier scene, with two children fishing at the end of the pier.  The text reads: "1973, Ontario Provincial Parks"

The first photographs

1974 is when a photograph was first used on a permit instead of a stylistic work of art.

Photo of a bright red lily flower with a black center and six petals, on a background of green lily leaves.  The text reads "Ontario Provincial Parks, 1974"

Can you see anything wrong with the guys on this boat based on the 1976 permit?

You guessed it: they are missing personal flotation devices (PFDs)!

Photo of two boys in a red canoe with a white stripe, canoeing on the water where you can see their reflection.  Guys don

This photo was taken at Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, a day-use park located just over an hour from Thunder Bay. Today there is a trail and boardwalk that connects to observation platforms that provide spectacular views of the canyon.

Photo of a canyon with a person standing and looking down the canyon while playing a guitar.  The text displays Ontario

There’s nothing like playing the guitar surrounded by impressive geology…they must be playing a rock song ๐Ÿ˜‰

Included in this permit is the iconic Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Photo of a girl in a pink swimsuit on a beach with blue water behind her and a mountain shape in the background.  Text states "Ontario Provincial Parks 1986"

Did you know that Lake Superior was one of Ontario’s first eight provincial parks? It was established in 1944.

Parks 100th anniversary

1993 marked the centennial of Ontario’s provincial parks. The anniversary was commemorated on this permit with the centennial logo and an old photograph.

Black and white photograph of children on the beach from the 1920s or 1930s. There is a circle in the image indicating Provincial Parks 1893 - 1993 Centennial Centennial Parcs Provinciaux"

Capturing 90s fashion

This permit from the early ’90s shows a group of hikers in Silent Lake Provincial Park. Have you walked these trails?

Photo of two seniors with two children looking (all dressed in '90s fashion) at a trail map above a sign that says "Lakeshore Trail 15 km, Lakehead Loop" .  Text States "1992 Ontario Provincial Parks, Parcs provincialux de l'Ontario".

In 1996, Ontario Parks adopted a new business operating model symbolized by a new name “Ontario Parks” and a new logo.

Starting in 1998, the logo appears on vehicle permits. Both permits feature classic ’90s camping style!

The image shows two passes for the park, one from 1996 and one from 1998. It first shows a person looking from a high place over a lake and the text says "1996 Ontario Provincial Parks Parcs provincialux de l'Ontario" and the second shows three children looking at a pond and a wetland from a bridge.  The Ontario Parks logo is in the upper left corner and the National Geographic logo is in the lower right corner.  The year is 1998.

Our partners over the years

Over the years, several corporate partners have supported Ontario Parks and have been featured on vehicle permits.

Thank you very much to all our partners!

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Split image with two park passes, both with the Ontario Parks logo.  The first image is of an adult man, sitting on a stranded boat, looking out over a lake at sunset with a younger man.  The text says "annual 2002/03" and there is a Canadian Tire logo in the lower left corner.  The second is an autumn scene of a bridge in a forest with lots of orange and brown leaves, and a Zellers logo in the lower right corner.  The text says "Annual 2004/05"

Split image showing two park passes.  The first is an image of 5 or 6 kayaks (all different colors) on a beach with a rainbow in the sky.  Shows the text states and the Ontario Parks and Woods logo. "Annual bus 2006/07".  The second step shows a rocky point that juts out into a blue lake with a blue sky in the background.  Pass has the Ontario Parks and Coleman logo, as well as a box in the left corner that acts as a placeholder space for a hologram.  Text States "Annual 2010/11"

Today’s Vehicle Passes

Featuring the iconic moose, the 2014 permit is the first designed to hang from a car’s rearview mirror.

Image of a current park pass that could fit on your rearview mirror.  The pass photo is of a male moose in a wetland, looking directly at the camera.  The logos are Ontario Parks and Coleman and the text says Annual 2014. In the left corner there is a space for a hologram.

The 2018 vehicle permit includes an old photograph of Ontario’s oldest provincial park: Algonquin.

Image of the current shape of the park pass that fits over a rearview mirror.  The photo on the pass shows two men, who appear to be from the early 1900s, one carrying a canoe and the other carrying a large backpack, with trees in the background.  Logos represented are Ontario Parks and Coleman.  The text says: "Annual 2018".

Have you purchased your 2018 vehicle permit pass?

Make 2018 the year to cross parks off your bucket list! Special events, programs and campaigns will be held across the province to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Ontario Parks.

Visit for more information about events and our history.

You can apply for an annual or seasonal park pass by clicking here to visit the Park Store.

Do you have any old documents or photographs from Ontario parks in your personal files? Share it with us @OntarioParks #OP125.