| Aug 16, 2007


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Feature Article - August 16, 2007

Ontario Rangers

by JeffGreen

The Ontario Rangers, formerly the Junior Rangers, held their annual Jamboree last weekend at the Ranger camp at McChesney Lake. Ranger troops from camps across central and North Eastern Ontario converged on the camp for a weekend of fun and sports.

160 rangers and 20 staff members enjoyed a break from their usual duties at Provincial parks and other locations across the province to go to the Jamboree.

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The Ontario Ranger program is over 60 years old. It provides an opportunity for young men and women, aged 16 or 17, to live in cabins and work outdoors for 8 weeks. It is a first job for many of the youth, and it is a good introduction to some of the work that the Ministry of Natural Resources does. Workers don’t need to have outdoors experience going into the program, but they are expected to work hard.

“It’s not a summer camp,” said Dan Hertendy, the camp supervisor at the McChesney Lake camp. “The rangers do a lot of cleanup and brushing in the parks, and move tons of rock when we are building fish spawning beds.”

A lot of the work requires travelling distances into wilderness sites, and weeklong canoe trips into remote sites are not uncommon.

“The first two weeks are spent doing a variety of courses, from bear awareness to first aide, canoe training, health and safety in the workplace, etcetera,” said Dan Hertendy.

Most of the staff working at the Ranger camps were once Rangers themselves. Hertendy said that each year a few of the Rangers are offered a junior staff position for the following year.

The Ranger program has never lost its popularity, and is especially popular with girls. 8 of the 13 Ontario Ranger camps are girls’ camps. However, in the past couple of years, the numbers of Rangers has decreased each year, because of budget cuts at the Ministry of Natural Resources. The McChesney Lake camp is capable of hosting 36 Rangers, but in 2006 the numbers were reduced to 28, and this year there are only 20 at the camp.

It’s not from lack of interest, since there is a long waiting list for the program, but the Ministry limited the numbers to keep costs down.

“It makes us nervous about the future of the Ontario Ranger program,” Dan Hertendy admitted.

Locally, Ontario Rangers have been very active in Bon Echo Park, and do much of the campsite maintenance at the public campsites under the Frontenac Parklands program throughout North Frontenac Township. They also travel to other regions, and have been involved in the development of a new provincial park in the Kawartha Lakes near the village of Apsley on highway 28.

This week’s jamboree is a reunion for the Ranger staff as well as an opportunity for the ranger crews to meet each other. Each visiting crew camped at locations around the lake, and they all ate together at a potluck each evening. On Saturday afternoon they participated in some skills competitions including portage, canoeing, and tug of war, etc. with the winning teams getting bragging rights for the next year.

On Saturday night, the rangers enjoyed a dance, thanks in part to a hastily donated PA from Log Cabin Music.

The evening was interrupted when several staffers shaved off their beards, which some of them had maintained for several years, in a fundraising event for the Diabetes Foundation. About $500 was raised.

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