by FORP on July 15th, 2013

Moose Lake Ontario Ranger, 2005
Without a doubt, working as a Ranger at Moose Lake was the best summer of my life, and one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It is heartbreaking to know that there are no Rangers this year, for the first time in many decades.  I know that the Ranger Program has been running since my dad was a teenager (he was a Ranger in the 60s) and I bet there is hardly anyone who went through the program who wouldn't say it changed their life.
 
I remember going on a Ranger canoe trip to clean up campsites and rebuild the privies.  By the end of one week we had completely run out of food except for soggy GORP. I remember portaging three aluminum canoes FULL of broken glass that we had cleaned up from campsites along the route. I remember a bear swimming in front of our canoe one day.  And I remember that when our crew got back to base camp, all the other girls made us jump straight in the lake because we all smelled so bad.  At the time it seemed horrible, looking back it was hilarious. 
Our summer culminated at the Jamboree, in a camp versus camp challenge.  We squared off with the other girls camps in a relay that challenged us all in the skills we'd learned over the summer - swimming, canoeing, starting a fire, etc. I think that when we won for Moose Lake, it was one of the happiest and most satisfying moments of my life.  All of us worked together, just as we had all summer, and did something awesome.
 
After Rangers I went to university and pursued International Development.  I worked in bush camps in Northern Ontario, as a tree-planter, quality assessor and foreman for five years.  I worked in Australia for a year, volunteered for a summer in Ethiopia, and backpacked across Europe this past winter.  I could have never done any of these things without the confidence, work ethic, and independence that I learned that summer at Moose Lake.  I still keep in touch with my Ranger friends and we are planning a reunion this summer. 
 
I think the most remarkable thing about it was that a group of 17 year old girls from all across the province almost instantly became real friends. Not only that, we learned how to be confident and comfortable with ourselves.
 
I truly hope that this program can be reinstated.  It enriched and changed the lives of so many Ontarians.  It is such a terrible shame that the next generation will not even have the opportunity to learn the lessons we did, or make the friendships we did, as Ontario Rangers.  Nothing could ever replace this program.

by FORP on July 8th, 2013

Boarding Assistant, Korean International School 
Sleeping Giant Ontario Ranger, 2006 

 "This one time at Rangers…" became a sentence starter that I spoke often after the summer of 2006. I spent that summer in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park with 22 other girls my age, as part of the Ontario Ranger Program. 
 
The Ranger Program is something that cannot be adequately described to anyone who is unfamiliar with it. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a range of great jobs, but Rangers was, without a doubt, the best summer of my life. 

I will never be able to thank this program enough for the lessons it taught me. I learned how to push myself, how to persevere, what I am truly capable of. I learned respect for the environment and developed an immense appreciation for the outdoors. Rangers taught me how to get along with others and build relationships. To this day I still cherish those friendships deeply. Looking back, I still laugh at some of the ridiculous ways we passed the time. I will hold dearly the stories and memories from that summer for the rest of my life. 

Being a Ranger was also my first experience of embarking on an adventure on my own, away from the familiar. Since then I have embraced such opportunities whole-heartedly. I know this courage stems from the overwhelmingly positive experience I had with the Ranger program.
 
The cancellation of the program is devastating. Reflecting on the formative experience I had, and hearing stories from my siblings, it saddens me to know that my youngest brother (and other youth) will not have this opportunity. In a world where technology is dominant and opportunities for young people are hard to find, a program like Ontario Rangers offers youth something very unique and valuable. I find it extremely disheartening that this is not recognized by our provincial leaders. 

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!

by FORP on June 24th, 2013

Ontario Park Warden, Algonquin Provincial Park
Partner and Supporter, 2011, 2012
Although I personally was never an Ontario Ranger, my experiences with the program both on and off the job have been amazing.

My first experience with Ontario Rangers came when I was 21 and starting as a Park Warden at Esker Lakes, where an Ontario Ranger camp was located. The difference the Rangers made even just in Esker Lakes was amazing. They were always lending a hand to the park whenever we needed them, especially in helping out with our annual Blueberry Festival, where the events they planned and facilitated were always a big hit with the campers. Just the mere presence of the Rangers in the park made it a livelier place – it was great seeing all these students working and walking around the park after work, laughing and having just the best summer of their lives. I took an opportunity to talk to the Rangers about working for Ontario Parks and they were all very interested in doing so and furthering themselves in the MNR, as they loved it so much.
The following summer, I was the Canoe Route Tech in the Temagami Backcountry Parks and was very excited to find out that we would be working with the Esker Lakes Rangers for three whole weeks that summer. As our interior crew was diminished to only two guys for the entire group of interior parks, having that crew of twelve Rangers and leaders to help us carve our way through the overgrown portages made a huge different. We worked those Rangers for 8, 9 and 10 hour days, pushing through overgrown trails in pouring rain, bugs and sweltering heat - with not a complaint from any of them. They just kept swinging their sandviks with smiles on their faces and the trails looked like new by the end of those three weeks. On one of the trips, the girls paddled their canoes into a stiff headwind for three hours until reaching the campsites we were destined for. The dedication from the Rangers and their leaders was simply amazing. We could not have accomplished nearly what we did that summer if it weren’t for the help of the Esker Lakes Ontario Rangers.
The Ranger leaders from Esker Lakes, who I have now known for two years, are the most fun, tight-knit and wonderful bunch of girls I know. The love they had for not only their jobs, but the park, each other and the Rangers they supervised every year was just incredible. Knowing how much they loved it there, I also know how devastated they are because of the cancellation of the program. It is a crime to take away the best part of the lives of returning Ranger staff and prevent young people in the future from even having the chance to experience being a Ranger.

I have worked with many people in my time in the MNR that started in Ontario Rangers, and the MNR will not be the same without it. The MNR must reverse its decision to close the Ranger program. There are many better ways to save a few bucks than to get rid of a remarkable program like Ontario Rangers.

by FORP on June 17th, 2013

Quality Control/Assurance Officer, Parsons Canada
Moosonee Ontario Ranger, 1977                                                                                                            
Life in the city as a 17-year-old young man had its advantages and disadvantages. There was always something to do and somewhere to be, but the sounds of the city never shut off and sirens and airplanes would echo in your ears, during the day and through the night.  My life was moving along like any good adventure, but everything was based on what my friends were doing and where the next party was going to be. Our form of entertainment was hanging out in city parks, where we would gather and socialize, always trying to keep one step away from the law and our parents’ watchful eyes. At that age we felt as though we knew it all. 

As the youngest of a large family, there were many concerned discussions amongst my older siblings and parents that perhaps I wasn’t being steered in the right direction. It was during one of those talks with the folks that a brochure for the MNR’s Junior Ranger Program hit the kitchen table, and with a little persuasion from my parents’ end, I filled out the application and sent it off.

A couple of months passed and in the early spring there was a letter addressed to yours truly.  A flood of emotion hit me before I even opened the letter. As it happened I was accepted into the program and stationed to a place called Moosonee. No one in my family had even heard of it before and we had to lug out the road map from Dad’s car to find out where it was, at the base of James Bay, only accessible by a train ride from Cochrane. 
I still remember the slow, steady churning of the train as it made its way along the tracks. There were so many of us, all the same age and all sharing a common excitement.  We would drop groups of Rangers off here and there along the way, as there were camps all across Northern Ontario. It was upon leaving Cochrane that reality started setting in of how remote and isolated Moosonee is. With another four hour left to go on the infamous “Polar Bear Express”, it was just our small group and the Cree returning home to their villages beyond the highways. Every so often the train would stop along the tracks at a small village to drop off groceries and supplies. I recall the young kids staring up and waving at us as we peered out the train window.

Our welcoming party awaited us in Moosonee, consisting of our foreman, sub-foreman and a couple of “freighter canoes”. We took off in a boat ride across the Moose River to the island that I and 23 other seventeen-year-old boys from all over the province would call home for the next two months.

That summer was an all-around amazing experience, one in which we developed a work ethic and learned to live and respect each other, in an environment that none of us were familiar with. We were taught how to use a shovel and an axe and where blisters really came from. We cleaned bathrooms, painted outhouses, cleared trails along the James Bay coast and peeled potatoes. And we had fun; from flying in a twin otter bush plane and seeing the vastness of the wilderness, to checking out cool rapids on multi-day canoe trips to brush trails and clean campsites.

For me, the Junior Ranger program was a life changing experience.  There was self gratitude when you received your $10/day paycheque at the end of the week.  There were many life lessons learned and many friendships created. It was an experience that brought me back north to further my education as a Forest Technician and to raise a family. 

It was as a Ranger that I first saw the northern lights, and looked into the sky at night and realized the vastness of our universe. Where I first heard the quiet sounds of life in the bush, where only the birds, wolves, bugs and frogs can muster up such a great song.  This is where I realized there really is a north beyond “Barrie North”. And this is where I have hung my hat - the “true north strong and free”.

The Ontario Ranger Program should not only be reinstated, it should be expanded.  Now, more than ever, we need to create opportunities for youth to get away from the city and learn some of life’s lessons.  And it’s not only the impact on the youth that's important – the Ranger program has also helped develop and sustain communities in the north.  Rangers have a warm welcome from many northern communities and provincial parks, for they see the importance and the work that can be accomplished.  I only wish that our Premier, Members of Parliament and business leaders could also see the value of this program and the importance of teaching our youth the values of life on a lake or river in the Boreal Forest, without the computer and cell phones, where life truly began.

by FORP on June 10th, 2013


Becky Reinhart: Radiation Therapist, Toronto.  Cedarbough Ontario Ranger, 2003.
Kate Reinhart: MNR Fire Ranger, Fort Frances. Killarney Ontario Ranger, 2005.
Alex Reinhart: MA Student (European, Russian and Eurasian Studies), Carleton University. Machesney Lake Ranger, 2007.
Maria Reinhart: High School Student, Walkerton, Ontario. Dividing Lake Ranger, 2011.

In 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011, the four of us received letters; the letter we all wanted, the letter that would change our lives.

Becky: I was the first of us to participate in the Ontario Ranger Program. In 2003, I spent the summer at the Cedarbough Ranger Camp. Like many Rangers, I experienced my first canoe trip, which sparked a keen interest in environmental issues. When I returned at the end of the summer, I told my siblings all about canoe trips, and the incredible friends I had made. For the three of my siblings, it was both inspiring and annoying. Four years later, I would return to Cedarbough, but this time as an Assistant Sub Supervisor. This experience provided me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills (an important ability if one has the burden of being an oldest sister).
Kate: Heading to Killarney in the summer of 2005 was nerve-wracking, as I had little experience in the outdoors.  I’d never even been in a canoe before that summer. But spending the summer with twenty-three strangers allowed me to become more independent, to work co-operatively as a team, and to be comfortable as an individual. The bond that I formed with my fellow Rangers and the outdoors cannot be described, but was certainly a turning point in my life. I also returned as a staff member for the past five years; my role as camp supervisor has allowed me to become an experienced leader. Without this opportunity, I would not be the confident, positive, and self-motivated person I am today. And like virtually all Rangers, I attribute my environmental awareness to participating in the program.


Alex: I spent the summer of 2007 at Machesney Lake Ranger Camp. For virtually all of us it was the summer of tough love; our camp would best be described as harsh but fair.  Machesney taught Rangers of the value of respect, and the importance of being punctual. By the end of the summer, no one would dare show up late for work.
Unlike my sisters, I did not return to my camp as a staff member; however, the environmental awareness which the program bestowed upon me has greatly impacted my schooling.

Maria: I was the last of the four of us to attend the Ontario Ranger Program at Dividing Lake. The next year, I returned to the program as assistant sub-supervisor before the program was cancelled. These experiences gave me a new perspective on life, and a more positive attitude. Additionally, it was a great opportunity for growth due to the judgement-free environment that was fostered at Dividing. The friendships that I made over the summer are ones that I really value and still keep. The Ranger program has shaped who I am today, and I couldn't imagine where I would be without the experience.

Each of us can say that the Ontario Ranger Program affected us in a positive way, and was a priceless learning experience.  Young people in this province are going to be missing out with the cut of this incredible program.

by FORP on June 3rd, 2013

Student (Environmental Sciences), Lakehead University
Esker Lakes Ontario Ranger, 2011
My first exposure to the Ontario Ranger program was complete luck; I had been looking for co-op options during the summer, to satisfy the program requirements at my high school.  After reading about the Ontario Ranger Program I knew it was something I would like to try, and I sent in my application. The more I learned about the program, the more I wanted the opportunity to experience it. Finally I got my acceptance into the program, and at the end of June I took the 10 hour car ride to Kirkland Lake.

I had camped my entire life, but I had never been as far north as Kirkland Lake. I had my first glimpse of the northern part of our province and was beyond excited to start working there. After the first few weeks at the Esker Lakes Ontario Ranger camp, I knew that I was home. The work was tough but rewarding; whether we were pruning trails or singing in our canoes, we had a blast.
Before the Ontario Ranger Program, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had no idea what kind of jobs were out there, and with grade 12 quickly approaching, I was going to have to decide which program and university I would be attending. During my experience as a Ranger I fell in love with the environment and wanted to protect what I had seen on our canoe trips. To think that such beauty existed, and yet was unseen by most of the population, made me want to protect and work in such a place. Waking up in the morning knowing that I was a getting paid to experience the wonders of what our environment had to offer made me feel  like I had won the lottery. The Ontario Ranger Program helped me to choose Lakehead University, where I am currently studying Environmental Sciences.
The Ontario Ranger program is more than just a job; I continue to use the morals and lessons that were taught to me there. I met my best friends at Esker and I don’t know what I would do without them; I consider the girls I went to Rangers with to be my sisters. In getting to know each other, we learned that we all came from different walks of life, but we accepted that we all had something different to offer.

Thanks to the Ontario Ranger Program I have continued to devote my summers to work with the Ministry of Natural Resources, and I hope to work in the MNR after I graduate, too. My life was completely altered by one summer, which helped to shape me into the person I am today.  I am truly grateful for my experience, and hope that the government sees the continuing value and importance of the Ontario Ranger Program to Ontario’s youth.

by FORP on May 27th, 2013

Masters Candidate of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba
Esker Lakes Ontario Ranger, 2007
I grew up with a love and appreciation of nature and have never been great at staying in one place. The Ontario Ranger Program was a natural fit for me and as I rode the bus north I could hardly wait. The scenery got more and more wild and the drive was long but beautiful. Meeting everyone for the first time and exploring the camp was thrilling. Over the course of the summer I learned a lot about my fellow rangers and they taught me so much. Everyone had a different skill or interest that they introduced to the others.

Even before the rangers program I knew I was interested in biology, but I had no idea the variety of careers out there and what I could aspire to do with my life. The Ranger Program re-enforced my love of the outdoors and gave me direction.  The canoe trip I went on that summer took me back to somewhere I had visited while learning to walk and I saw a place I only remembered from the stories my parents had told me. 
I have worked across Ontario on various reptile, amphibian and bird monitoring and conservation projects for government and non-governmental organizations. I am currently working on a reptile conservation project in the southwestern region of Ontario Parks. The skills I learned in the Ontario Ranger Program have been extremely useful for jobs that have required canoeing experience and the ability to work as a team and be comfortable in communal living situations.

The Ontario Ranger Program is a one of a kind program that allows students to explore new parts of their province and expand their knowledge. The program is positively influential to young minds and beneficial for their futures. The Ontario Ranger Program is priceless, and is necessary to build the future of this province.

by FORP on May 20th, 2013

Student, University of Waterloo
Esker Lakes Ontario Ranger, 2011
I was never fully exposed to the grandeur of the outdoors or of myself until I met the Ontario Ranger Program. Born in China and moved to Canada when I was 9, I was always raised in a traditional, conservative way. When two of my 2010 Ranger friends approached me with this opportunity I immediately wanted to apply: the idea of living away from my parents for the entire summer appealed to my inner wild child and I already had an appreciation of the outdoors from past camping trips. Everything happened so fast afterwards: Ontario Northland, blueberries, outcamp, canoe trip, boys, Jambo, champions, teary goodbyes, southbound train…like a powerful storm that completely transformed me inside out.
Being a ranger taught me to appreciate the presence of others in my life.  Since Day 1, my fellow Rangers and supervisors I worked with became the source of my inspiration, energy and motivation. Despite all the hard work we went through, together we were invincible. I remember being in awe at the sight of someone swinging a sandvik in all her glory and the victorious feeling we all shared when we dug out a giant tree root. After work, we would come together with our different backgrounds and share our stories together, laugh together, and dance together. For the first time in my life I enjoyed being out of my comfort zone as I participated in dance parties, kitchen raids, and late night sneak-outs to the dock. Everyone I met on this journey taught me to live life to the fullest, to be completely engulfed by all the beauty around me in the north. The program acted as a platform for self expression as it made me to see beyond my introverted side and helped me to embrace my interests.
 
The absence of this life changing program would mean depriving youth the opportunity to explore an unknown territory. Deep down inside, we all have the urge to escape from the city lights and find true happiness under the serenity of the stars. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

by FORP on May 13th, 2013

Physical Education Teacher, Branksome Hall Asia
McCreight’s Dam Ontario Ranger, 2004

When I was driven up to McCreight’s Dam in 2004, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The most information I had was from a pamphlet my Dad decided to pick up at the Leslie Frost Centre a few months earlier. Without anyone attesting to the program at this point, I was preparing myself to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere with a group of strangers that I would be forced to work, live, eat and breathe with for the following two months.
 
But like most other former Rangers, I can say with confidence that it took me little time to adjust, and to become accustomed to a way of life that would break my heart to leave in two months time.
The Ontario Ranger program encouraged an immense amount of growth in me: A love of learning, a new appreciation for the environment, independence, acquaintance with hard work, and a sense of place. Although I grew up with the familiarity of the outdoors, it is due largely to the Ranger program that I went on to study Outdoor Recreation and to acquire a teaching degree with a specialization in Outdoor Education and Environmental Science. It is the reason I went on to work in various Residential Camps and Outdoor Centers, and why I am now a teacher trying my best to foster a love of the outdoors in my students. The Ontario Ranger program has and always will be one of the main reasons I am doing what I’m doing, and why I believe so strongly in inspiring youth to get outside.
 
After my own remarkable experience at Rangers, three of my younger siblings went on to complete the program in different locations across Ontario. It devastates me that my youngest brother will not be a Ranger next summer and will not have the change to share in our love of the program. Ontario Rangers is an experience that I wish would not be denied to any youth.  It is a life changing educational and emotional growing experience that I sincerely thank for shaping me into the person I am today.


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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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