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A Lifetime of Service: Garnet Green, Senior Operations Technician at Ontario Parks

When Garnet Green first started working for Ontario Parks as a Kitchen Assistant at the age of 17, he never would have guessed that he’d end up staying on with Ontario Parks for the next 56 years. “I had no idea that I’d be there this long. Even in 2007, I basically said, ‘That’s it, I’m retiring,’ but I just couldn’t,” says Garnet. “I’ve still got too many things on the horizon, projects that I still want to accomplish.”

His lifelong career in Ontario Parks isn’t too surprising in some ways, though: his father also worked for the Parks before him, and growing up with the forests of Northern Ontario as his backyard, Garnet loved everything about the “bush” as he and his nine siblings called it. “We lived in an area which was surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of forest. We knew the land to a tee– or to a tree, maybe,” laughs Garnet. 

His lifelong career in Ontario Parks isn’t too surprising in some ways, though: his father also worked for the Parks before him, and growing up with the forests of Northern Ontario as his backyard, Garnet loved everything about the “bush” as he and his nine siblings called it. “We lived in an area which was surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of forest. We knew the land to a tee– or to a tree, maybe,” laughs Garnet. 

Garnet’s family was Irish on his mother’s side, and his paternal grandmother was Indigenous. Going to school in Canada in the 1950s, Garnet says that sometimes kids at school would tease him and his siblings for their Indigenous heritage – but the teasing was short lived. Garnet chalks this up to his parents being highly respected in the community, having built a small tourist camp from scratch, Evergreen Camp, on the banks of Lake Talon in Mattawa Provincial Park. “We didn’t have much growing up, but we did have that small piece of heaven,” says Garnet. 

Helping out at the camp from a young age, Garnet loved helping his father build canoes and boats, guiding guests on fishing expeditions, and taking care of the log cabins on the property. So, it was only natural that he’d be driven to want to keep doing those things as he came of age and began looking for work outside of the family camp.

That first year in the parks was the last time Garnet worked in the kitchen; over the years, he’s held nearly every position that the parks require to run effectively: ranger, warden, assistant superintendent, and more. He’s helped with Ontario Parks maintenance support, tree regeneration, training new park staff, and special projects – including helping to build the log cabin visitor’s center for the Marten River Logging Museum, and making traditional pointer boats informed by the techniques his father had taught him. “My father was proud of his heritage, and I for one am very proud of it, too – I’m glad that he passed on to me what he learned from his mother, uncle, and grandfather.”

56 years is an impressive career – but Garnet says it’s gone by pretty fast, because whatever the position, he’s always enjoyed the work. “You have to love what you’re getting into,” he says. “I wanted to work in the field, because that’s what I enjoyed. So, that’s what I did. You don’t say you have to enjoy every day, but you always have to be able to look back on the best part of your job.”

When – or maybe if – Garnet ever does retire, he’ll be sorely missed by Ontario Parks. But at least for now, the staff who are lucky to learn from him will continue to benefit from his lifetime of experience.