Pinery hits the big 5-0

EDIT (Adding events):
Saturday June 20, 2009

1:00 p.m.
Visitor Centre, Pinery Provincial Park

1:00 p.m. – Social gathering

2:00 p.m. – Welcome – Pinery: the last 50 years
Speeches and Cake Cutting

3:30 & 4:30 p.m. – Rum & Spirits program
& Voyageur Canoe trip (Canoe Dock)

Story by Casey Lessard
Photos courtesy Pinery Provincial Park

It has been a big part of family life for area residents and visitors for 50 years, and this weekend the Pinery Park is celebrating that milestone with cake and more at the visitors’ centre.
Friends of Pinery Park is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year; the non-profit is dedicated to education, promotion, preservation and support of the park and its activities. Brenda Kulon, 55, of Bright’s Grove has been coming to the park most of her life, and chairs the committee.
“My first time in Pinery park was as a kid,” Kulon recalls. “I was amazed at the tall pines. In my high school years, we did a lot of camping here. And then as a young adult, I volunteered here counting butterflies and was a photographer for the park during my 30s.”
Over the years, Kulon has noticed major changes in the features and operation of the park, including the move from planting pines to restoring the native habitat, the oak savannah. Some changes were for the better and others not.
“Environmentally, we’re losing a lot of the insect population and species, and we don’t understand why,” she says. “A lot of it is habitat loss, but there has to be another reason. We don’t have the knowledge. As far as staffing, there used to be numerous people working as educators, and now the Pinery is threatened with fewer and fewer of them. The role of volunteers in the park is still very important because your experts are often outside of the park system. You need both. There’s a happy medium.”
Marty Page also remembers early days at the park, enjoying time swimming and having barbecues. His father installed the hydro lines as an employee of Ontario Hydro that first year.
“My dad said that they rather enjoyed working in the Park in the winter, as the trees blocked the cold winds,” Page says. “There were two trucks working everyday. Each truck had a foreman, a driver and four linesmen. There were First Nations people hired from the reservation at Kettle Point, I believe, and their job was to dig the holes for the poles to be set in and they had to be paid cash each day when they were finished.”
Park lovers like Page are critical to the Pinery’s ongoing success, Kulon says.
“Friends was formed by caring people who were dedicated to the preservation of what’s inside Pinery park and to the education and promotion of the park. Friends was designed to be the voices of the Pinery and show people what a beautiful place it is.”
Getting involved by volunteering could mean anything from fundraising, to educating visitors, to helping with promotions.
“We do a lot for the park, and a lot of those things they (the ministry) can’t do on their own,” says Friends manager of operations Jessica Brownlee. “We do a lot of fundraising for park projects. We do the trail guides, educational exhibits, interpretive signs. We built the Savannah bike trail, maintain the website, and run the nature store, which is a fundraiser for the Friends.”
Noting the variety of family experiences possible, Brownlee notes the Pinery’s value in giving people a chance to commune with nature while helping in the preservation of the wildlife, culture and history of the park.
“It is a big place with lots to offer,” she says, mentioning the variety of activities from hiking, biking, swimming, to toboganning, snowshoeing and skating that take place. “It’s really a special place.”