New and hopefully improved leadership for the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario.
New leadership for Quetico Park
by Jessica Smith on April 9, 2014
Quetico Park’s new superintendent, Trevor Gibb, hails from London – “Ontario’s banana belt” in his words – but has clocked a few miles around Canada. While most recently he served as assistant superintendent for the Cochrane area cluster of 29 provincial parks, he started out working in the provincial parks system in 2003 at the Killarney wilderness park as a warden, before advancing.
Because “the role was seasonal, I was able to do my education in the winters.” He earned his geography degree at the University of Western Ontario, then completed a teaching degree at Mt. St. Vincent University, Hailfax, in 2009. The next year he spent teaching high school at Iqaluit, on Baffin Island. The community of 5,000 Inuit residents had class sizes similar to Atikokan’s.
“It was an amazing experience. I had the students out on the ice once a week, skiing, traditional fishing and seal hunting. Sometimes I would give my head a shake, and think ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m getting paid to take these kids out and do these traditional activities with them,” said Gibb.
His return to park management in Cochrane was as a replacement to Jennifer Lukacic who came to Quetico in 2011 as an assistant superintendent. (For the past five months, Lukacic has filled in as acting superintendent here, following Jeff Bonnema’s departure.)
“Parks are where my values lie. I love protected areas and getting out in the wilderness,” said Gibb.
He has been on the job for three weeks, and part of his work has been on the public review of the preliminary park management plan. He said he is committed to working with all stakeholders, including Lac La Croix FN, which shares in managing the park’s western area through the 1994 Agreement of Co-Existence. (He and assistant superintendent Blier visited Lac La Croix last week.)
The management plan, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2010, “may be finalized in the next couple of years. We’re not going to rush it; we want to make sure [we] get input from all those who have a local interest,” said Gibb, who will address Council April 14 to introduce himself to the Town and discuss management plans and objectives.
Handling one large park like Quetico is no less complex than the ‘clusters of smaller parks in the northeastern part of the province he said.
“Quetico is such a complex park, that there are a number of pieces to deal with,” he said, adding however, that in the past, he has overseen areas where it was logistically very difficult to get into all of the parks (many, like White Otter, that are non-operating), requiring travel by train, float plane or helicopter. In that respect, “It’s nice to be able to focus on one piece of real estate.”
“I understand Quetico is a special place within Ontario Park’s system, and the importance of maintaining its impact on a provincial, national and global scale, and maintaining its ecological integrity and its value to park users. And also the importance of that continued partnership with Lac La Croix in the management and operation of the park.”
Gibb said he loves the north, snow (he’s already bought a snowmobile and hopes to get involved in curling and cross-country skiing), and the wilderness areas, and as someone who enjoys fishing and canoeing, he is looking forward to hitting the lakes here. Gibb adds that he is going to have to learn the ‘hut stroke,’ as he has observed it seems to be the preferred paddling technique here.
He will be joined here shortly by partner Bridget, a biologist who is studying for her Masters at the University of Manitoba.
New assistant superintendent Jason Blier (pronounced the French way, Blee-eh) and wife Crystal actually moved here when he began his position last fall. A self-described “northern boy” born and raised in Schreiber, he said Atikokan and Quetico is a great place to put down roots. Like Gibb, his education background isn’t in park management. In fact, he studied physics, math and computer science at Lakehead University and electrical engineering at Confederation College – what he calls a “techy geeky background.”
“I love the mechanics of things like snowmobiles, computers… I love diving into a technical manual. I’m a lot of fun at parties,” he joked. (That passion has come in handy for Gibb however, who relied on Blier’s technical expertise in his snowmobile purchase).
So with a technical background, how has he wound up working in parks?
“My whole life has revolved around parks. I am a child of parks,” said Blier. “My earliest memories were camping in parks with my grandparents and parents, and that helped formed my values system.”
He started out as a maintenance worker in 1996 and held various positions in parks such as Neys and Rainbow Falls, before becoming acting superintendent for a year and a half for the 27 parks in the Nipigon and North Shore area. In fact the park cluster he managed shared a boundary with Gibb’s jurisdiction. Since 2008, he has served as assistant – and most recently acting superintendent – of Kakabeka Falls and its 12 adjacent provincial parks.
Blier will take on the operations, logistics and staffing functions for Quetico, and said he sees “a bright future for the park.”
Since he has already had a little time to settle in here, he said he loves the town, is fascinated by its history (particularly the Steep Rock Mine diversion, both the engineering brilliance, and the environmental quandary left in its wake), and the wilderness here. He enjoys paddling, but his water vessel of choice is a kayak.
“My wife is very happy here too; we plan on making this our home,” he adds. The couple are animal lovers and own horses and three dogs.