Karen Chapeskie (nee Wilke)

by FORP on July 1st, 2013

Huntsville, Ontario
Esker Lakes Ontario Ranger,1980

In 1980, at the age of 17, I went to Esker Lakes ‘Junior Ranger’ camp - boarded a train in Toronto and got off at a town called Swastika, Ontario!  Along with the other girls, I was driven in an extended truck for what felt like miles and miles into the bush to arrive at Esker Lakes Provincial Park.
That summer was the most rewarding, hard work and yet fun I have ever experienced. I had camped as a girl guide but my first canoe trip was in the Ontario Ranger program. My experience working as a Ranger in the fish hatchery was also a first, but the most ‘fun’ was cleaning dump sites! While dragging trash back into the pit, we managed to collect enough empty bottles that our whole camp enjoyed a night at the movies in the town of Kirkland Lake! 
After I returned home, I found myself wanting to be in Northern Ontario.  Coming from Toronto, that was hard for many to understand, but seeing the beauty and the sounds of birds and wildlife day and night was so much more inspiring than sirens or trucks!  I now reside in almost the north, and at any opportunity I can be found enjoying the provincial park nearby. Having been an Ontario Ranger, I know the work that has gone into making our parks great.
The Ontario Ranger program deserves to be saved for future young people to experience the wonders of our province while gaining valuable work experiences and friendships. For me it was a chance to learn about Northern Ontario prior to going to college that fall and to gain experience to put on a resume, and confidence. I knew I had gained valuable skills not taught simply by 8 hours a day on the job, but by living and sharing space together in tents and on job sites. 
My career now involves working with people, of all ages and backgrounds. I have the ability to talk to miners or loggers or business entrepreneurs because of the exposure the Ontario Ranger program provided to so many different northern work opportunities.
My brother was a Ranger in Manitouwadge in the 1970s, and went on to active military services with several tours overseas.  My daughter was a Dividing Lake Ranger in 2012, and it is my hope that my son will be able to attend in 2014.  He too is looking for the experiences that my brother, daughter and I have shared - and hope to share with future generations!

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This blog is an online campagin against the closure of the Ontario Ranger Program. If you are interested in contributing please email us at: friendsoftheorp@gmail.com.


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