Parks Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

A History of Canada's National Parks
Volume IV
by W.F. Lothian

Chapter 11
Park Education and Interpretation


When Canadian legislators provided the statutory authority for the management of our national parks, they dedicated these areas to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment. They also stipulated that the parks should be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. This, indeed was a difficult assignment — to permit use without impairment. Obviously, some impairment is involved in providing access to, and in encouraging the use of, the spectacular areas which compose this segment of our national heritage. The necessary balance between use and impairment has been achieved by careful management, aided by a program of public relations, education and interpretation.

Freeman Tilden, a well-known American interpretive specialist, has defined interpretation as "an educational activity which aims to reveal meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, by first-hand experience, and by illustrative media, rather than simply to communicate factual information."1 Alan Helmsley, a Canadian authority on park interpretation, defined it as follows: "Park interpretation, therefore, is the art of stimulating in people an interest in, and an awareness, an understanding and an appreciation of the landscapes and ecological communities of the national parks, with recognition of the historical role of man within these landscapes and his continuing relationship to them."2 Either version endorses the development in our national parks of a program by which park visitors are made aware of the natural wonders, the unique wildlife, and the opportunities for healthful outdoor life and recreation that exist for their enjoyment.

When Canada's first national park was created in 1887, means of calling public attention to the attractions and benefits of the parks were limited — especially when compared to the innumerable facets of advertising that exist today. The park superintendant did some advertising in a local newspaper; but the park — then known as Rocky Mountains — was also widely publicized by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The CPR made every effort possible to increase its passenger traffic over the recently constructed transcontinental line; and the scenic and recreational attractions of Banff, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake and the Yoho valley were prominently featured in the company's widely dispersed advertising media.

Gradually the Department of the Interior, and successive departments charged with the administration of national parks, built up a publicity and information service. Through the judicious use of press articles, printed brochures, lectures, photographs, colored slides and motion picture films, and the establishment of park information bureaus, the role of the national parks in preserving Canadian wildlife and the primitive landscape was made known to Canadians and visitors from abroad. Following World War II, public relations officers appointed in several of the larger parks initiated an educational program involving conducted nature tours complemented by evening film showings. In some parks natural history museums also helped to illustrate the conservation functions of the park system.

A continuing need to provide special information on the national parks, stressing preservation of their fauna, flora and geological features, led to the establishment in 1959 of an Education and Interpretation section within the National Parks Branch. This service was launched under the guidance of a professional biologist and a few assistants with a knowledge of natural history. Since then its growth has been remarkable. To meet public demand, a program of interpretation activities is currently offered in practically all the national parks. This program involves trained specialists along with a supporting staff, which during the summer of 1978 totaled 180.

Canada's National Parks at the New York World's Fair, 1939. The mounted bison specimen came from Elk Island National Park

A park naturalist describes some of the natural features in Asulkan Valley, Glacier National Park, B.C. to visitors. Nature hikes are popular in Canada's mountain national parks.

First Park Museum

The first attempt to provide the public with information about the ecology of Rocky Mountains Park was the establishment of a small museum. In his report to the minister in 1886, W.F. Whitcher had mentioned the possibility of having a museum developed at Banff; but for several years the idea remained dormant. In 1890 a residence for park superintendent George Stewart was under construction at Banff on Villa Lot 25, Block 1, when the park was visited by the minister, Edgar Dewdney. In August that year, Stewart advised the secretary of Department of the Interior that the minister had requested that the building be converted into a park museum.3 A month later, Stewart was authorized to expend $800 for the necessary alterations. By January 1891 the appropriation was exhausted and the work had not been completed. Additional funds were forthcoming in 1892, and on May 19 Stewart was able to advise Deputy Minister A.M. Burgess that the building had been brought to a state that would permit the acceptance of donations, although the lower floor remained unfinished.

Meanwhile, consideration was being given to the appointment of a museum curator. On February 18, 1892, Deputy Minister Burgess solicited the advice of Professor John Macoun of the Geological Survey of Canada on what qualifications the prospective incumbent should have. Macoun was then one of Canada's best known botanists. He had been a member of Sandford Fleming's exploration party, which in 1872 had crossed western Canada and the Yellowhead Pass in search of the best route for the nation's first trans-continental railway. Later, after the railway was completed, Macoun had been a frequent visitor to the Canadian Rockies, and had personally assembled a remarkable collection of mountain flora.

Professor Macoun's reply was frank and free of verbiage that sometimes afflicted interdepartmental correspondence:

I may state that you should have a man of wide intelligence and who could give information on more subjects than talking of or showing the specimens in the museum. He should be energetic (not a hotel lounger)...should know the species of fish you have in the park...ought to be able to skin a bird or a mammal...have or be intelligent enough to gather some knowledge of minerals. In short, you want an intelligent, educated and energetic young man who could talk natural history, mineralogy, geology and everything else with visitors. No single man should be appointed as you want a tidy woman about the place.

You may not find a man with all these qualifications but get a man who is willing to make something of himself..a political bloke should be the last man for the place.4

Museum Site Changed

In October, 1892, Edgar Dewdney was succeeded by T. Mayne Daly as Minister of the Interior. Daly took a keen interest in the proposed museum, and decided that its present location was unsuitable — an opinion shared by Professor Macoun. Late in 1893 Superintendent Stewart was notified that $1,200 was being made available to relocate the building from its site southeast of the Banff Springs Hotel to a new site on Villa Lots 1 and 2, Block 2, which had been approved by the minister. Only the upper storey of the building was moved, and its relocation was completed in July 1894.

Meanwhile, officers of the museum of the Geological Survey of Canada at Ottawa had been preparing and assembling exhibits for use in the Banff museum. Many of these specimens had been collected by Professor Macoun in the park during previous summers.

Display cases had been received by the park superintendent from Ottawa in November 1893, and had been stored. The first shipment of exhibits arrived from the Geological Survey museum in February 1895. The shipment included eight specimens of Canadian mammals, 295 mounted birds, 57 specimens of wood, 814 mounted flowering plants and 201 specimens of minerals. The museum was opened to the public in July that year, and by the end of the season had attracted 661 visitors.5

Curator Appointed

Before the museum was completed, consideration was being given to the engagement of a curator. In August, 1892, George Macleod of Banff had applied by letter to the minister for the post.6 Macleod had worked for the superintendent in the park nursery, and also was employed on a part-time basis by the Department of Marine and Fisheries as an observer in the Meteorological Service. After exchanges of correspondence between the Department of the Interior and the Meteorological Service, it was agreed that Macleod would be employed both as weather observer and museum curator, with the salaries for each job paid by the respective departments. The Auditor General's report for 1895 discloses that Macleod's appointment as curator dated from September 1894, and that his emolument for the position was $25 per month.

Macleod's employment as museum curator was short lived. He died at Banff early in March 1896 after a long illness. His successor was Norman B. Sanson, who also took over the duties of meteorological observer. A native of Toronto, Sanson had arrived in Banff in 1892. Although employed in various jobs, including one at the Sanitarium Hotel, he found time to indulge in his hobby of natural history research. Sanson's duties of meteorological observer called on his physical resources after 1903, when a small observatory was constructed on the most northerly peak of Sulphur Mountain overlooking Banff townsite. For the next 29 years, Sanson made weekly or fortnightly ascents of the mountain over a trail 3.75 miles long to obtain weather data recorded automatically in the small stone building. Before the completion of the observatory, weather observations had been recorded in a building near the park superintendent's residence.

The new curator of the museum embarked on his duties with enthusiasm. His early efforts were devoted to building up the number and variety of museum specimens. Although some early acquisitions, including two musk-oxen were exotic, most were examples of the mammals, birds, plants, insects, fossils and minerals found in the national park. In 1903 the museum was relocated in a new park administration building completed that year on Banff Avenue near the Bow River bridge. With more space in which to display collections, the scope of the museum was expanded, and gradually additional specimens were obtained.

Like many curators, Sanson encouraged the loan to the museum of artifacts, including those pertaining to human history. Sanson had personally assembled quite a number of North American Indian artifacts, which he lent to the museum. He also obtained on loan from Canon H.W. Gibbon-Stocken of Gleichen, Alberta, an impressive collection of 46 Plains Indian curios, including Blackfoot headdress, necklaces, rattles, moccasins, saddle, tomahawk and arrows. In 1923 Cannon Gibbon-Stocken was induced to sell the collection to the Department of the Interior for permanent display in the museum. A payment of $600 was authorized by Order in Council.7

Handbook Published

Sanson had the good fortune to obtain the assistance of visiting biologists and other scientists from both Canada and the United States in the identification and classification of his large and varied collections. In 1913 and 1914, Harlan I. Smith, an archaeologist from the National Museum in Ottawa, spent several months in Banff assisting in the collection of specimens and in rearranging the museum exhibits. With Sanson's assistance, Smith prepared a handbook of the Rocky Mountains Park Museum which was published in 1914.8 The handbook not only served as a catalogue of the museum's contents, but also contained descriptions of the numerous large and small mammals native to the Rocky Mountain region, as well as those of birds, fish, insects, plants, fossils and minerals. It was an excellent natural history guide to Rocky Mountains (Banff) Park.

In 1913 and early 1914, at the request of the Commissioner of Parks, Sanson collected and pressed 5,000 sprigs of mountain heather in Simpson Pass. Later 3,000 sprigs were forwarded to Ottawa for insertion in the cover of a pamphlet, Just a Sprig of Mountain Heather, issued by the Dominion Parks Branch in 1914.

Norman Sanson's tenure of office extended over 36 years, during which he combined the duties of museum curator and weather observer. In the course of his work, he completed more than 1,000 ascents of the northern peak of Sulphur Mountain, on which the observatory was located, entailing nearly 8,000 miles of travel. In addition, his excursions through Banff and adjoining national parks by saddle pony and on foot in search of specimens accounted for an additional 20,000 miles.9 He retired in 1931 but maintained his interest in outdoor activities. He was elected the first president of the Canadian Skyline Trail Hikers in 1933, with which he had a long association. Six months before his death in May 1949, the peak on which the observatory stood was named Sanson Peak by the Canadian Board on Geographical Names. There seems no doubt that he fulfilled most of the qualifications for his position that were recommended by John Macoun in 1892.

Museum Exhibit Reviewed

Following Sanson's retirement, the Banff Park museum was operated under the supervision of caretakers who had little technical knowledge of the park wildlife. One occupant, Jack Mitchell, was a retired taxidermist and he ensured that vulnerable specimens were protected from moths and other damage. Dr. C.H.D. Clarke, the mammalogist of the National Parks Service at Ottawa, had made several inspections of the museum, and in December 1943 he brought to the attention of R.J.C. Stead, superintendent of parks and resources information, some of the weaknesses in the presentation of the museum s exhibits.

Dr. Clarke noted that the frame construction of the museum constituted a serious fire hazard, and that some specimens, such as mounted birds and furbearing animals, were susceptible to fading. He also called attention to the considerable extraneous material unrelated to the park, the crowded aspect of the exhibits, and the fact that many were improperly labelled.10

Dr. Clarke's memorandum was passed on to James Smart, controller of the National Parks Bureau, who agreed that improvements to the museum were required and that a new building was desirable. However, considering the numerous postwar requirements in other phases of administration, little hope was held that the required appropriation would be forthcoming. Further consideration by the controller and the director of the Lands, Parks and Forests Branch brought agreement that the museum should be relocated in a large building on Bear Street, then used as the park garage, after funds were provided to construct a new mechanical equipment maintenance depot.

Attempts made by the National Parks Branch from 1948 to 1950 to have funds allocated for the construction of a new museum were unsuccessful. In May 1952 C.E. Johnson, a retired employee of the National Museum at Ottawa, was engaged to examine the Banff museum exhibits, correct or relabel specimens, and improve the arrangement of exhibits. Some work concurrently undertaken by the park superintendent improved the building's exterior appearance. Five years later, additional steps to upgrade the presentation of the museum exhibits were carried out by John Crosby of the National Museum, with the cooperation of its director, Dr. L.S. Russell. This involved the replacement of numerous labels, the introduction of a number of explanatory drawings, and a thorough housecleaning.

Encroachment on Floor Space

Meanwhile, a new human history museum was opened in Banff by N.K. Luxton, a long time resident of Banff, and E.L. Harvie, a wealthy Calgary lawyer. This raised the question of whether or not the original government museum should be perpetuated. The park superintendent and staff had moved to a modern new administration building in 1936, and space in the old administration building, which still housed the museum, had been made available to two organizations interested in promoting tourism. These were the Alberta Motor Association and the Canadian Rockies Tourist Association. The building also contained the park information bureau. In September 1957 the president of the Alberta Motor Association, Gordon McGachie, visited Ottawa and discussed with the minister, Alvin Hamilton, the provision of additional space for the associations' operations. McGachie told the minister that he had heard a rumor that the department might discontinue operating the park museum; and, if that were done, the entice ground floor of the building could be made available to the AMA, the CRTA and the park information bureau.

The deputy minister consulted the director of the National Parks Branch on the proposal. Both the director and Park Superintendent Strong advocated retaining the Banff museum, in the expectation that more suitable quarters eventually would be found for it. However, after a review of the matter, the minister decided that the entire ground floor of the museum building should be made available in 1958 for the use of the two tourist associations and the Park Information Bureau, and Mr. McGachie was so informed.11 The decision meant that operation of the park museum no longer would be possible. A press notice announcing the minister's decision was prepared, but was withheld from release until the beginning of the new year.

Meanwhile, news of the museum's impending demise reached Banff and Calgary, and strong opposition to its closing developed. Eric Harvie visited Ottawa and made a strong plea to the deputy minister for the retention of the Banff museum. Mr. Harvie offered to provide technical assistance in rehabilitating the building and its contents, and also, if acceptable, to operate it in conjunction with the Luxton museum.

Later the department relaxed its stand, when the museum situation was reviewed by Assistant Deputy Minister E.A. Côté and senior officers of the department and the National Parks Branch. Meeting in January 1958, they decided that operation of the park museum would be continued with minor interior changes, the culling of exhibits and the acquisition of more suitable display cases. The type of exhibits to be included in the museum in future also was discussed at length; it was agreed that for the present, all presentations should pertain to natural history.12 Also planned was the eventual transfer of the museum from the existing building to the department's garage building at Banff, after this was vacated and necessary structural changes made. Another outcome of the meeting was a more equitable sharing of available accommodation in the museum building among the two tourist promotion organizations and the Banff information bureau. The minister later wrote to Gordon McGachie, president of the Alberta Motor Association, explaining why it had been necessary to withdraw part of the space offered the previous autumn.

Museum Reorganized

Eric Harvie's offer of technical assistance in the revamping of the park museum was accepted, and the services of Clifford Wilson of the Luxton Museum were provided. In February 1958 Wilson submitted a report recommending substantial changes in the park museum, including the removal of all material that could not be classed as flora, fauna or minerals found in the park. This meant discarding the Indian relics and artifacts. Under Wilson's supervision duplicate and badly mounted specimens were eliminated, many others were relabelled, and the interiors of display cases were brightened. Numerous extraneous exhibits on loan to the museum were returned to the owners.

On April 16, 1958, Assistant Deputy Minister Côté informed the director of the National Parks Branch that "the Banff Museum should not be stripped of all its human history material in favour of the Luxton Museum, and should not be left exclusively as a natural history museum."13 However, this advice was not followed. The Luxton Museum became the repository of most of the Indian artifacts. In July, 1958, Alice Gibbon-Stocken of Victoria asked the park superintendent to turn over to Norman Luxton the Indian exhibits which she stated had been loaned to the park museum by her father. Presumably, neither Miss Gibbon-Stocken nor the park superintendent knew that the department had purchased the Blackfoot Indian artifacts from Canon-Gibbon Stocken in 1923, for they were released to Mr. Luxton in September 1958. Concurrently, Indian articles which had been lent to the museum years before by the late Norman Sanson, its former curator, were claimed by Mrs. A.C. Newton of Calgary, and at her request they also were turned over the Luxton museum. In both cases, the heirs were reimbursed by the Luxton Museum on the basis of valuations made by Norman Luxton.14

In 1961 the Bear Street garage was vacated, and operations formerly carried on there were transferred to a large building which had been constructed in a new industrial compound northeast of Banff townsite. But park officers felt that the need for a new fire hall, which for many years had been accommodated in a former schoolhouse, outweighed the requirement for a new museum site. Although architectural plans had been prepared in 1959 for converting the garage into a museum, in 1962 the vacated building was converted instead into a fire hall. At the time of writing the park museum remained on the site it had occupied since 1903, functioning basically as a natural history museum.

Early Park Publications

The first illustrated pamphlet describing the national parks in the Canadian Rockies, as far as known, was published in 1909 under the authority of Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior. Entitled The Prince of Playgrounds, it contained within its 38 pages, descriptions of Banff, Yoho and Glacier National Parks, with special emphasis on the scenic and recreational attractions of Banff townsite and vicinity. The booklet was distributed freely at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle that year.15 The text was compiled by Agnes D. Cameron, vice-president of the Canadian Women's Press Club.

In 1914 Parks Commissioner J.B. Harkin obtained funds for printing several informative and attractive booklets. One described the Nakimu Caves in Glacier Park; another, written by Professor A.P. Coleman of the University of Toronto, explained the formation and location of some of the larger glaciers in the Rockies and Selkirks. In another attractive booklet, S.C. Vick of the Department of Fisheries at Banff described some of the game fish in the mountain parks. Harlan Smith's Handbook of the Banff Museum — already mentioned — provided much information on the flora and fauna of Rocky Mountains Park. The most attractive publication however was that entitled Just a Sprig of Mountain Heather. It began with an account of the discovery by Sir George Simpson in 1841 of mountain heather in Simpson Pass, and briefly outlined the purposes, concepts, and characteristics of the national parks. A sprig of mountain heather was inserted in the cover of each copy.

Publicity Division Organized

Restricted appropriations during and following World War I were relaxed in 1921, when Commissioner Harkin established the nucleus of a publicity and information division in the Dominion Parks Branch. That same year reprints of several publications already published were ordered, and a new illustrated publication, Through the Heart of the Rockies and Selkirks, written by staff member Mabel Williams, was produced. It described in detail the parks along the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Alberta and British Columbia, and proved to be a very popular publication. By 1929 three more editions had been issued to meet public demand. A Guide to Jasper National Park, containing 180 pages, also written by Miss Williams, was published in 1929. The completion of new motor highways through Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho national parks prompted the publication of two additional illustrated pamphlets, The Banff-Windermere Highway in 1923 and The Kicking Horse Trail in 1927.

The objectives and attractions of national parks were also publicized by a lecturer, who supplemented talks with showings of colored slides. A photograph and lantern slide library was organized, and in subsequent years thousands of prints depicting the scenic grandeur of the parks, their wildlife and recreational attractions, were distributed free of charge. A small staff of writers produced news and feature articles on national parks topics, which were distributed to the press, periodicals and professional lecturers. In 1924 and 1925 the National Parks Branch was represented at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, England, by the director of publicity, J.C. Campbell. He supervised a small information bureau and also undertook a modest lecture program in southern England.

Special exhibits comprising mounted game animals, framed photographs, colored transparencies and tanned buffalo hides were arranged at large fairs and exhibitions in Canada and the United States. In collaboration with the Canadian Exhibition Commission of the Department of Trade and Commerce, the National Parks Branch maintained an information desk, served by well-informed staff from Ottawa, at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1933, and at the New York World's Fair in 1939 and 1940.

Film Library Developed

The National Parks Branch was one of the first federal government agencies to use motion pictures for educational purposes. Commencing in 1921, the publicity division built up a library of films, first in black and white and later in colour, calling attention to the physical, recreational and educational aspects of the parks. Film shot by professional photographers on assignment was purchased and was assembled into film stories at Ottawa. Through special arrangements with the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau in Ottawa, and later with Associated Screen News Limited of Montreal, sound versions were developed for release on international theatre film circuits. From 1925 to 1942, much of the motion picture film purchased was obtained from W.J. Oliver of Calgary, an outstanding commercial photographer. The most popular films available from the National Parks Branch library portrayed the national buffalo herds, other large mammals native to the parks, Canadian birds and waterfowl, sport fishing, alpine climbing and excursions through the parks by saddle pony and canoe.

Grey Owl

In 1931, the National Parks Branch obtained the services of a self-taught naturalist, Archibald Belaney — better known as Grey Owl. Belaney had arrived in Canada from his native England as a youth in 1906, and had lived among Indians in northern Ontario for many years, earning a livelihood as a guide, forest ranger and trapper. About 1928, while living in the province of Quebec under his adopted name of Grey Owl, he decided to give up trapping in favour of writing. The quality of his articles, published in an English magazine Country Life and in Canadian Forest and Outdoors, led the commissioner of National Parks to offer Grey Owl employment in helping to conserve the beaver in Canada's national parks. While in Temiscouata County, Quebec, Grey Owl had adopted two motherless beaver kittens which became his semi-domesticated pets. Their antics provided a source of material for his stories which later formed the basis of several books. In 1930 the director of publicity for national parks, J.C. Campbell, accompanied a film crew to Cabano, Quebec, where sufficient film footage of the beaver was obtained to produce a silent film, The Beaver People.

Grey Owl was first employed in Riding Mountain National Park as "caretaker of park animals."16 There, in 1931, a second film, The Beaver Family, was made. By autumn, water conditions in the small lake on which Grey Owl had been established proved unsatisfactory for a winter sojourn. Consequently the beaver, along with Grey Owl and his common-law wife, Anahareo (Gertrude Bernard), were moved to Ajawaan Lake in Prince Albert National Park. Three more films were made there. They were Grey Owl's Neighbors, Strange Doings in Beaverland and Pilgrims of the Wild. These films received worldwide distribution and brought fame to both Grey Owl and the national parks of Canada. Through the cooperation of Associated Screen News of Montreal, sound versions of available film negatives were created and distributed on theatre circuits. They were Grey Owl's Little Brother and Grey Owl's Strange Guests.

Meanwhile Grey Owl had continued his writing, and over a period of seven years from 1931 to 1937, he produced and published four books: Men of the Last Frontier, Pilgrims of the Wild, The Adventures of Sajo and Her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin. In 1935 Grey Owl embarked on a lecture tour of Great Britain under the sponsorship of his English publisher, Lovat Dickson. This tour, repeated in 1937, and extended in 1938 to eastern North America, coupled with hard living, seriously impaired his health. On returning to Canada in the spring of 1938, he went back to his cabin on Ajawaan Lake, contracted pneumonia and died on April 13 in a hospital in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Throughout his literacy and lecture career, Grey Owl espoused the conservation of wildlife, with emphasis on beaver, which in some areas of eastern Canada had been wiped out by trapping. He also defended the life pattern of the Indian people with whom he had lived and inter-married, and expressed deep concern for the protection of remaining portions of original Canada. The revelation by the press following his death in 1938 that he was not an Indian received wide publicity and undoubtedly affected future sales of his books. Nevertheless, during his brief career as a writer and lecturer, he not only brought invaluable publicity to Canada's national parks, but publicized the need for conserving Canada's wildlife and preserving its endangered natural environment.

Division Reorganized

Following the creation of the Department of Mines and Resources in December 1936, national park publicity and information services were reorganized. Robert J.C. Stead, a well-known writer and publicist, who had headed the information services of the former Department of Immigration, succeeded J.C. Campbell as supervisor of parks and resources information. Emphasis was placed on the distribution of publications describing individual national parks, and a series of information folders on most of the national parks was compiled and published. These folders, which incorporated a small map of the park concerned, were produced by W.F. Lothian, and were continued in amended form as a basic publicity and information medium for the ensuing 40 years. They were supplemented over varying periods by other publications, including three separate promotional pamphlets, well illustrated and printed on coated stock, known as the Playgrounds series. Brochures describing natural phenomena, special events, and services, including guides for anglers, also were compiled and printed as required.

Over the years interdepartmental reorganization resulted in changes affecting publicity and information activity. In November 1947 all national park motion picture films, negatives and projection equipment were transferred to the National Film Board. The section head, J.A. Rigby, also accepted a transfer to the board. At that time the National Parks Branch film library contained some 85 films, of which several prints were available on loan. During the year before the transfer of the film library, 5,700 prints had been lent to individuals, conservation groups and other organizations.

Reallocation of departmental functions in 1947 also included the transfer to the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission of all mounted wildlife specimens and other equipment used in exhibition displays, which had been carried on for some years. The Exhibition Commission retained the services of T.S. Heaslip, the parks exhibit officer.

The reorganization merged the rest of the Publicity Division with the newly-created Editorial and Information Division of the Department headed by a chief editor, A.J. Baxter.17 The new division was responsible for the preparation and distribution of park publications, photographs and slides, as well as the lecture program. Promotional and educational activity was continued with the assistance of the National Film Board, the Exhibition Commission and the Canadian Government Travel Bureau. Funds for the production of printed material, photographs and films were included in national park appropriations and made available as required.

Merger with Travel Bureau

In January 1950 the Canadian Government Travel Bureau became a component of the new Department of Resources and Development, and in January 1951 some publicity activities relating to national parks were transferred from the Editorial and Information Division to the Bureau. This merger also involved the transfer of staff responsible for production of park publications and park films. Funds included in National Parks Branch appropriations for these forms of publicity were transferred to the Travel Bureau as required. In 1952 the Travel Bureau launched a series of broadcasts on the National Parks of Canada over the network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It also distributed more than 900,000 publications relating to the national parks. In subsequent years, the national parks received widespread publicity through direct advertising, the distribution of literature and photographs, and the use of films in television broadcasts .

Education and Interpretation

From the inception of Canada's National Park system in 1887 until after the close of World War II, most of the publicity work undertaken by the National Parks Branch was designed to attract visitors to the parks. Communication with visitors concerning the concepts, ideals and conservation aspects of these national areas, other than that provided by publications, was largely feature-oriented. Emphasis was placed on the scenic and recreational attractions of the parks; their natural phenomena; specimens of native wildlife displayed within fenced enclosures; and on museum displays of botanical, geological and mounted wildlife specimens. Lecture work outside the parks also was undertaken on a small scale, but little of what is now termed "park interpretation" was attempted. In short, few of the thousands of visitors entering the larger parks realized that in addition to providing unique recreational advantages, the parks actually constituted vast museums of living nature preserved, as far as possible, in its original state.

Pioneer Efforts

The earliest attempt to provide a park interpretation service was made in 1929, when the services of a naturalist, J. Hamilton Laing, were obtained for the summer season in some of the mountain parks. In 1930, while engaged in reorganizing exhibits in the Banff Museum, Harlan I. Smith of the National Museum at Ottawa also prepared and posted several hundred labels identifying various species of trees, shrubs and plants along paths and trails in the vicinity of Banff townsite. Labels also were posted on the cages of birds and animals in the then existing zoo, and at the wild animal paddock east of the townsite. Details of the establishment and partial disappearance of these developments may be found in an earlier chapter of this volume.

During his stay in the park in 1930, Smith found an identification label on a tree which had been placed there in 1915, and was still in a good state of preservation. The label, originally placed either by Smith or Norman Sanson, indicated that interpretation in the parks had been undertaken in a small degree at least 15 years earlier.

Another pioneer in national park interpretation work was R.W. Sutton, an employee of the Manitoba Museum at Winnipeg. During the summer of 1938, Sutton teamed with A.H. Shortt in collecting field specimens of birds and small mammals for the National Museum at Ottawa. Sutton's work attracted the interest of park superintendent Otto Heaslip, who engaged Sutton during the summers of 1939 and 1940 to undertake similar work on behalf of the Riding Mountain Park museum. Sutton's duties were expanded to include nature talks in the museum, and to conduct visitors on guided walks over established park trails. The success of the program led the superintendent to discuss the establishment of a naturalist position with Controller Smart of the National Parks Bureau. However, curtailment of funds due to wartime economies probably ruled out the proposal. Sutton also assisted P.A. Taverner, ornithologist of the National Museum, in the compilation of an annotated list of the birds of Riding Mountain National Park. Years later, in 1973, "Dick" Sutton rejoined Parks Canada as chief of interpretation for the prairie region at Winnipeg.

Public Relations Officers

For several years before 1948, a recreation and nature information service had been provided in Prince Albert and Riding Mountain National Parks during the summer months. In 1948 these services were extended to Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes Parks, where seasonal positions were created and filled by young men with university training.18 They organized and carried on short field excursions for park visitors in areas easily accessible from park headquarters. During the outings they drew attention to the geology, botany, natural phenomena and wildlife of the region. These officers, termed public relations officers, also organized outdoor sports and delivered campfire talks in the evenings, usually at park campgrounds. When possible the talks were supplemented by the screening of park and other educational films. The popularity of the programs led to the construction of small outdoor amphitheaters equipped for film showings. In some parks the nature talks and film showings were extended to larger hotels, using films made available by the National Film Board through regional depots.

Although the classified positions of public relations officers were abolished in 1951 because of budget restraints, most of the park superintendents managed to continue the entertainment features including film showings, organized sports and, in some parks, short field excursions. This was done with the assistance of seasonal help, termed park recreational officers. These employees, paid at hourly rates for a limited period during the summer visitor season, were drawn mainly from members of the teaching profession. Some became quite skilled in this type of program, and continuity in their seasonal employment was possible.

Interpretation Service Proposed

Nature interpretation programs had been inaugurated in the United States national parks in the 1920s and later, about 1954, in the Ontario provincial park system. As already mentioned, programs had been undertaken in some of the western national parks in Canada to create among visitors an interest in the natural features of the region; but definite steps to establish an interpretation service were postponed until 1958. During a visit that year to Glacier National Park, Montana, Gordon Robertson, Deputy Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, was impressed by the interpretation program provided there. After his return to Ottawa, he discussed with national parks director J.R.B. Coleman, the desirability of establishing a similar program in some of Canada's national parks. Support for such action was found in an editorial in the Toronto Daily Star, which lamented the lack of a public natural history program in the national parks similar to that carried on in the larger provincial parks of Ontario.19

By September 1958, with the approval of the minister, it was decided to establish of an education and interpretation service. As envisioned, a tentative interpretation program would be developed before the beginning of the 1959 visitor season by Homer S. Robinson, a former department publicity officer. Robinson had been appointed superintendent of parks and resources information in 1946, following the retirement of R.J.C. Stead. The position was abolished in the 1947 reorganization of the department's publicity and information activities, and Robinson subsequently had served as an information officer in the newly-created Editorial and Information Division.

In 1951 he and six other officers of the division had gone to the Canadian Government Travel Bureau to assist in national park publicity work. Robinson had expected that the transferred employees would operate as a unit, but most were absorbed in the Travel Bureau establishment. Robinson was given the responsibility for film and audiovisual services; another transferred employee, J.G. Perdue, continued as a publicity officer in the production of national park publications.

New Section Takes Form

Late in 1957 Homer Robinson obtained a transfer back to the National Parks Branch. Subsequently his services were made available to the United Nations Organization to advise the government of Jordan on the development of the tourist industry. He returned to Canada in the autumn of 1958, and undertook the task of establishing an education and natural history interpretation section in the National Parks Branch. In October director J.R.B. Coleman made arrangements for Robinson to visit Washington and interview the head of the United States National Park Service interpretation service. There Robinson met officers responsible for interpretation activities, visited a nature center in the city of Washington, and examined the museum laboratory of the interpretation service. Following Robinson's return to Ottawa, a working group of departmental officers, including one from the Geological Survey of Canada, was organized as an interpretation committee, to recommend various activities that might be undertaken in 1959.

It had been anticipated that funds for the employment of a least three permanent qualified interpretative officers would be provided in 1959. The expected positions, however, did not materialize, and consequently much of the year's activity was confined to planning. In April 1959 Dr. George M. Stirrett, regional biologist of the Canadian Wildlife Service for Ontario, was appointed to the position of chief park naturalist. This appointment permitted Robinson to improve the information aspects of the proposed program, while Dr. Stirrett devoted his efforts to interpretation.

Dr. Stirrett's choice as chief park naturalist was most appropriate. He had travelled extensively through Ontario on wildlife research, and was well acquainted with the unique flora and bird life of Point Pelee National Park. About 1954 he began special studies in the park which he hoped would lead to the establishment of a natural history program. One of his achievements was development of the first nature trail in the southern part of the park, later known as the Woodland Nature Trail.

Development of Programs

An opportunity to acquaint field officers with the proposed education and interpretation program was afforded during a conference of park superintendents in Ottawa in February, 1959, when Homer Robinson gave a talk. Later in May, Robinson attended the annual park warden training school in Banff National Park. He also visited Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, where interpretation activities and methods were discussed with the chief park naturalist, Grant Tayler. Pending the establishment of permanent positions, programs combining natural history with the showing of park films at national park campgrounds, large hotels and elsewhere were carried on by seasonal employees. Many of these had been employed in that category for several years, and had become quite proficient in their duties.

Field trips to a number of western parks were made later in the year by both Robinson and Dr. Stirrett. Their objectives included discussions with park superintendents on the presentation of interpretive programs, and an examination of nature trails which had been laid out or were in the course of development in the parks. Robinson's itinerary included Elk Island, Jasper, Banff, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes and Mount Revelstoke Parks, while Dr. Stirrett visited Prince Albert and Riding Mountain National Parks. Robinson later proceeded to Victoria, where interviews were obtained with officers of the British Columbia provincial parks system concerned with interpretive programs. Through the cooperation of the chief geologist, Geological Survey of Canada, seven field geologists contributed material for inclusion in nature trail guides.

By the end of 1959 nature trails had been developed in Banff, Kootenay, Point Pelee, Fundy, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Highlands national parks. The trail in Point Pelee Park through the nature reserve and the trail along the slope of Redstreak Mountain in Kootenay Park, were then already in existence. Species of trees along these trails had been identified by appropriate markers, and information on wildflowers, shrubs and geological formations was included in leaflets or guides printed for free distribution. As the result of field observations by park staff with the assistance of park wardens, information was compiled on other nature trails under development.

Publications for Interpretation

Meanwhile, work on publications for use by interpretation staff and park visitors had progressed, and by March 30, 1960, two comprehensive booklets written by Dr. Stirrett had been published. These were The Spring Birds of Point Pelee National Park and The Plants of the Woodland Nature Trail in Point Pelee National Park. In 1959 the Geological Survey of Canada agreed to prepare and publish a series of geological pamphlets that would facilitate the work of the national parks' interpretation staff. The first of the series was published in 1960, entitled The Story of the Mountains in Banff National Park. This was written by Dr. Helen R. Belyea of the regional office of the Geological Survey at Calgary.

In January 1960, the National Parks Branch engaged Dr. David M. Baird, chairman of the Department of Geology at the University of Ottawa, to prepare a small illustrated pocket guide that would assist in the interpretation of geological phenomena in the national parks. Later that year, it was published as A Guide to Geology for Visitors in Canada's National Parks, and made available at a cost of $1.50.

The popularity of this guide led the Geological Survey of Canada to engage Dr. Baird to continue the series of books on the geology of the mountain national parks which had been initiated by Dr. Belyea. Between 1962 and 1967 Dr. Baird completed the text and provided pictures and sketches for guides to most of the mountain parks in Canada, which were published by the Geological Survey of Canada. Well illustrated, they provided excellent descriptions of the mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers and other physical features accessible by motor highway or walking trails in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks. Dr. Baird expanded this series to provide geological histories of Prince Edward Island, Fundy, and Terra Nova Parks, and the national parks in Ontario.

In 1974 the Geological Survey resumed publication of geological guides to the national parks, which were written by Dr. Arthur H. Lang, a retired member of the Geological Survey staff. These additional guides describe Elk Island, Prince Albert, Riding Mountain and Pacific Rim National Parks.

Information Activities Shared

The preparation and distribution of national park pamphlets and map folders, together with the production of park films, were continued by the Canadian government Travel Bureau until March 31, 1960. In April that year, some of these functions were taken over by the National Parks Branch. It was agreed that the education and interpretation section of the branch would in future be responsible for producing brochures and other printed matter of an educational nature, while the Travel Bureau would continue producing pamphlets and films designed primarily to attract visitors to the national parks and other parts of Canada.

During the 10-year period in which the Canadian Travel Bureau served as an information and publicity agency for the national parks, several million copies of parks publications were printed and distributed. Eight new films featuring national parks were produced in colour with sound accompaniment, and made available for distribution through the National Film Board. Several new park pamphlets were compiled and published, and numerous press articles, still photographs and other public relations materials were released. Canada's national parks also were featured in the Travel Bureau's advertising program.

Park Information Bureaus

Requests for information received in national parks normally were answered either by the park information bureau or by the superintendent's offices. A public information service for visitors had been inaugurated in the townsite of Banff in 1924, when a small building was erected on Banff Avenue south of the superintendent's office, then housed in the museum building. In 1939 the park information bureau was moved to the ground floor of the museum building, staffed by seasonal personnel engaged by the park superintendent. Originally the services provided had included the reserving of visitor accommodation, but this was discontinued in 1946 when it was undertaken by private enterprise. Similar information bureaus were established in other parks, where folders, maps and detailed information about the physical, recreational and educational attractions of the region were provided on request.

Information and Interpretation Workshops

Following the creation of an education and interpretation service, it was decided to establish training classes or workshops for field staffs engaged in disseminating information to park visitors. The first workshop for information bureau staff was held at Banff in June 1960 under the supervision of H.S. Robinson, assisted by Aileen Harmon of the Park superintendent's staff. A total of 32 information officers, from 10 national parks, attended the sessions. This gathering was followed early in July by a workshop for interpretive personnel. Altogether, 11 interpretive officers from eight national parks attended. The program included lectures on the responsibilities of the new service, slide presentations on natural history topics by chief park wardens, a lecture on geology of the mountain parks by Dr. Helen Belyea of the Geological Survey, and a talk on the wildlife of the region by D.R. Flook of the Canadian Wildlife Service. On two successive days the program featured a field demonstration on the identification of shrubs and trees given by the regional forester, Steve Kun, and another on geological formations by Dr. Belyea. The workshop closed with a campfire interpretation program.

Shortage of Staff

During the first two years of its existence, the education and interpretation section of the National Parks Branch lacked adequate staff, both at headquarters and in the field. The section head, H.S. Robinson, shared the services of a stenographer with Dr. George Stirrett, the chief park naturalist; and it was not until February 1961 that clerical help was obtained through the transfer of a department employee, John Stotesbury. By January 1961 advice had been received that five seasonal park naturalists, classified at the level of Technical Officer 2, would be included in the branch establishment for 1961-62. Later the appointees were assigned to Banff, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes, Point Pelee and Fundy national parks to supervise interpretation programs carried on in the summer months. Seasonal naturalists in other parks were employed under contract.

Meanwhile, a brief guide or handbook for use by interpretation and information officers had been compiled and distributed. A start was also made on revising existing park information folders to emphasize the basic functions of the parks and the need to preserve their flora, fauna and geological features. Steps also were taken to reestablish within the section an adequate still photo library to replace the collection which had been transferred in 1951 to the Canadian Government Travel Bureau. In August 1961 delivery of a new illustrated pamphlet, Canada's Heritage of Nature, was received. Compiled by H.S. Robinson, it reviewed the origin of the national parks, outlined their growth in numbers, and stressed the need for natural sanctuaries free of industrial and other forms of resource development. The publication also contained brief descriptions of the 18 national parks then in existence. A second edition of the pamphlet was printed in 1962.

In May, 1961, arrangements were made to repeat the information and interpretation workshops for field staff. The courses for interpretation officers were held at Banff from June 2 to 5, at which talks on natural history, forestry and geology were given by specialists in these subjects. The chief park naturalist of Glacier National Park in Montana reviewed the interpretation work undertaken in the United States National Park Service. A short course for information officers also was held at Banff from June 6 to 9, attended by a representative from Riding Mountain Park for the first time. Park staff participating in the workshop were taken on field excursions, including one to the summit of Sulphur Mountain where the local geology was explained by Dr. A.M. Stalker of the Geological Survey. Other outings included one to Yoho Park under the guidance of chief park warden Glen Brook, and another to Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay Park, where the seasonal naturalist, Kurt Seel, provided the group with details of the natural phenomena of the region. Later, in July 1961, Dr. Stirrett inspected the information and interpretation services provided in Point Pelee, Fundy, Cape Breton Highlands and Prince Edward Island National Parks. After his return Dr. Stirrett offered numerous recommendations for the improvement of programs in these parks.

Staff Additions Obtained

Before the close of 1961, H.S. Robinson renewed his efforts to have the staff of the education and interpretation section at Ottawa increased, in view of his expected retirement from the public service in April 1962. Robinson recalled that before the transfer of information staff to the Canadian Government Travel Bureau in 1951 the national park publicity unit was composed of seven persons. He insisted that attempts to carry on an enlarged program with a staff of only three was not possible. Eventually assistance was obtained by the transfer of a Technical Officer 2 position from the establishment for Elk Island National Park, and the subsequent recruitment of a biologist, R. Dalton Muir, as an assistant to Dr. Stirrett. Robinson retired on April 30, 1962, and early in May was replaced by Sydney L. Roberts, an experienced information officer. For several years, Roberts had served with the department's Information Services Division, and was familiar with national park policies and the functions of the education and interpretation section of the National Parks Branch. He had already been called upon to assist in national park public relations work, and his transfer provided timely assistance to the understaffed national park unit.

Successive ministers of the department had shown a keen interest in extending public relations on behalf of national parks. They had encouraged the use of park superintendents and chief park wardens in calling public attention to the functions of national parks and their unique physical and educational features. These officers were encouraged to give talks to schoolchildren as well as adult community groups in the vicinity of national parks. Roberts had provided substantial assistance by drafting a suitable talk on national parks for use by park officers at public gatherings, and also had developed a series of lectures on public relations for delivery at the training schools for park wardens in 1962.

Advent of Panorama

Another assignment undertaken by Sydney Roberts before his formal transfer to the National Parks Branch was the compilation and publication of a monthly newsletter designed to keep staff members at Ottawa and in the field informed about department happenings and items of interest. Entitled Panorama, the first issue was published in February 1962, and incorporated material compiled mainly by officers at Ottawa. Later the newsletter contained contributions from park staff throughout the system from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia. Items ranged from descriptions of construction projects in national and national historic parks to control of surplus wildlife, rescue procedures and methods of assisting park visitors in distress, and natural phenomena such as the annual smelt run in Lake Erie at Point Pelee Park. Publication of Panorama was continued until November 1965, when it was ended mainly due to a lack of suitable contributions.

Section Relocated

By 1962 the education and interpretation section had been relocated in the Norlite Building, 150 Wellington Street, with other divisions of the National Parks Branch. This made it possible to give more direction to the program. A reallocation of duties made Dr. Stirrett responsible for nature interpretation and Sydney Roberts for information and press services, including the compilation, revision and distribution of park publications. Workshops for training field staff were continued at Banff in June, at which interpretation courses were coordinated by Dr. Stirrett and those on information by Syd Roberts. Later, in reporting on results of the training sessions, Roberts recommended that the annual gatherings be continued, and also that they be rotated among other parks. For the 1962-63 season the number of seasonal park naturalist positions had been increased by four, allocated to Jasper, Yoho, Riding Mountain and Prince Edward Island National Parks.

Palisades Training Centre

A substantial property acquisition in Jasper National Park in 1962 permitted the development of a new training and conference centre a few miles north of Jasper townsite. In February the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources purchased the remaining privately owned tract of land in the park, which had been developed by successive owners as a dude ranch. Known as Palisades Ranch, the 152-acre property contained a private residence, a 10-unit motel and about 10 other buildings capable of providing visitor accommodation. With alterations, the ranch complex was found capable of accommodating small conferences, training sessions and similar departmental gatherings.

Both the information and interpretation workshops were held there in 1963 under the direction of Dr. Stirrett, assisted by Dalton Muir. They featured talks by geologists, naturalists and foresters from federal and provincial government departments, and from the United States National Park Service. The 1964 the interpretation workshop was repeated at Jasper, but the information services training session was carried on at Banff. A feature of the 1964 interpretation workshop was a trip from Jasper to Maligne Lake, the largest glacier-fed body of water in the mountain national parks. Dr. David Baird of the University of Ottawa acted as guide and narrator, calling to the attention of those present the significant geological features of the region.

Dr. Stirrett Retires

In September 1964 Dr. George Stirrett reached retirement age, and, after vacating the post of chief park naturalist, moved to Grand Falls, New Brunswick. He had completed 38 years as a Canadian government scientist. His career had begun as an entomologist with the Department of Agriculture in 1926. In 1948 he had joined the Canadian Wildlife Service, and later served with distinction as a biologist for that division of the National Parks Branch in Ontario. His choice as chief park naturalist provided the opportunity to organize and direct the natural history function in the national parks' education and interpretation program inaugurated in 1959. By the date of his retirement this had been solidly established in most of the larger national parks.

Dr. Stirrett had a pronounced affinity for research and study in Point Pelee National Park, Ontario. The park forms the most southerly part of mainland Canada, and because of its geographical position and climate, it supports trees, plants and bird life normally found in more southerly areas. The need for a nature trail along which visitors could observe unique forms of nature had been recognized by park authorities as early as 1942. The start of a trail was made in 1955, when a suitable route was selected by Dr. Stirrett, then an officer of the Canadian Wildlife Service. Later he initiated another development which permitted visitors to observe the interesting wildlife in the park marsh which comprises 75 percent of the park area. This was a boardwalk similar to one located in Everglades National Park, Florida. Completed in 1963 and now known as the Boardwalk Trail, it extends about two-thirds of a mile into the marsh. An elevated platform at the end of the walk affords views of much of the marsh. By 1973 an extension to the trail had been completed in the form of a floating walk. The extension forms a loop which joins the original boardwalk about 125 yards from its starting point. An observation tower at the entrance also provides views of the area.

The natural attractions of the park, given wider prominence by an interpretation program in 1961, led Dr. Stirrett to recommend the construction in Point Pelee and other parks of buildings to be known as nature centres. As proposed, they would provide essential services for park visitors and also assist in the organization and operation of natural history activities. The size of each building would normally be determined by the scope of the park natural history program, and might contain an exhibit hall, auditorium, service area and workshop, display rotunda, office space for park naturalists, storage space for collections, and a small library. Ideally, it also would border on or be near a completed nature trail.

Eventually Dr. Stirrett's hopes were realized. In March 1965 the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Arthur Laing, announced that the first of a series of nature centres in national parks would be constructed in Point Pelee Park. Construction continued throughout 1965, and the building was formally opened on August 19, 1966.20 It contained many of the features suggested by Dr. Stirrett, and has since housed displays concerning the geological origin of the park and its unusual fauna and flora.

New Chief Parks Naturalist

The vacancy caused by Dr. Stirrett's retirement remained unfilled for nearly nine months, during which Dalton Muir carried on as acting chief parks naturalist. On June 1, 1965, Alan F. Helmsley of Toronto was appointed to the position. A graduate of the University of Toronto, Helmsley had been an officer of the Department of Lands and Forests for Ontario since 1949. He had assisted in the organization of training courses for personnel attending the annual Ontario forest ranger school near Dorset, Ontario, at which he supervised instruction on fish and wildlife matters. He also developed and directed early park interpretation activities in Algonquin Provincial Park. Following the formation in 1954 of a parks division in the Department of Lands and Forests, Helmsley was appointed to the new position of supervisor of interpretation for the Ontario park system. He was the author of several publications, including the only manual of park interpretation published before 1960. As successor to Dr. Stirrett, Alan Helmsley entered on his duties as chief parks naturalist with a background which adequately qualified him for the position.

Field Staff Enlarged

The year 1965 was notable in other ways for the natural history and interpretation section of the National Parks Branch. Field staff was expanded to include 10 permanent park naturalist positions. Seven of these positions were allocated to parks in western Canada and the remaining three to parks in eastern Canada. Appointed as permanent park naturalists were David Coburn in Banff Park; Peter Heron, Jasper Park; J.C. Findlay, Elk Island Park; E.B. Cunningham, Waterton Lakes Park; Kurt Seel, Kootenay Park; Dudley Foskett, Yoho Park; Robert Walker, Riding Mountain Park; Patricia Narraway, Prince Edward Island Park; and David Christie, Fundy Park; later that year William Wyett was appointed in Point Pelee Park. Before the end of the fiscal year, illness forced Coburn to retire as Banff park naturalist, and he was replaced in 1966 by E.B. Cunningham. Banff Park also was provided with two permanent assistants, Aileen Harmon and Bruce Gordon. For several years Miss Harmon, a devoted outdoors enthusiast and naturalist, had assisted in the park interpretation program while also carrying on duties in the park administration building. With the assistance of Bruce Gordon, she had laid out the first two nature trails in Banff Park — one at the Hoodoos east of Tunnel Mountain and the other at Bow Pass summit over-looking Peyto Lake. In other national parks, additional interpretation staff was engaged on a seasonal basis.

The head office staff at Ottawa, comprising Alan Helmsley and Dalton Muir, was augmented by the appointment of a technical officer, John Crosby, to serve as an exhibit planner. Crosby already had undertaken work for the National Parks Branch by improving exhibits at the Banff Park museum. Another helpful appointment was that of Harry R. Webster as regional park naturalist for the western region at Calgary; this permitted closer coordination of interpretation activities in the western parks. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Webster had been employed as a public relations officer in the British Columbia national parks in 1948. He joined the National Parks Branch staff in 1949, serving as a wildlife officer in the Atlantic provinces and later as a wildlife biologist in Alberta, specializing in waterfowl. In 1959 he was appointed superintendent of Elk Island National Park. He remained there until February 1965, when he was transferred to a similar position at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. His service as western region park naturalist at Calgary began in April 1965.

Park Program Popular

The appointment of year-round park naturalists and the engagement of additional seasonal personnel significantly improved national parks interpretation programs by the end of the 1965 season. A review of the services developed for visitors to Banff National Park was described by assistant park naturalist Bruce Gordon in the November 1965 issue of the department staff paper Intercom. A staff of seven, operating under the park naturalist, offered visitors a choice of guided walks on nature trails, talks and evening programs, as well as self-guiding nature trails near Banff and Lake Louise. Leaflets showed the location of these trails, and contained information on the flora, geological features and objects of natural interest along the way.

Interpretation officers also arranged film showings in outdoor amphitheatres. Programs normally were prefaced by short talks on the purpose and functions of the national parks, and short explanatory discourses on the film subject preceded each screening. In addition, photo slide shows proved useful in providing visual presentations not available in motion picture films. Fireside talks also were popular, presumably because they helped to create an outdoor atmosphere. The complete naturalist program undertaken at the park was outlined in posters and by leaflets distributed to the public.

Additional Nature Centres

The opening of the nature centre at Point Pelee National Park in 1966 was followed by the conversion of two existing park museums to interpretation centres. The museum at Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park, constructed in 1935, had been placed under the supervision of the park interpretation service in 1961. Later, steps were taken to have the existing exhibits coordinated with the park interpretation program. In 1967, the building was extensively renovated and new exhibits installed. The new displays emphasized the significance of the boreal forest in today's world, and also explained the geology and natural features of the park. After its reopening in June 1967, the building was officially known as the Interpretation Centre.

In 1975, the Interpretation Centre at Waskesiu was renovated again, and most of the former exhibits were replaced. New presentations featured the natural history of the park: they dealt with its glaciation during the Ice Age, the Indian history of the park and the surrounding region, the development of the fur trade and later the lumber industry in areas adjacent to the park. They also highlighted the activities of Grey Owl, the self-educated naturalist who resided in the park for several years and gained fame as a writer, lecturer and conservationist. Grey Owl's activities have been mentioned in more detail earlier in this chapter. A small theatre installed in the centre enabled the park naturalists to screen both films and slides, which were supplemented by talks on the park wildlife and other natural features.

Riding Mountain Interpretation Centre

Another national park museum was converted into an interpretation centre at Riding Mountain National Park in 1968. Originally constructed and opened in 1933, it was one of the attractive log and stone buildings erected in the townsite of Wasagaming following establishment of the park in 1930. Among its principal attractions was a collection of Indian artifacts assembled by the park superintendent, James Smart, before its opening. A number of small dioramas were displayed in lighted display cases, along with indigenous geological and paleontological specimens, among other items.

By 1958 the physical condition of the building had deteriorated and the exhibits had become outmoded. In 1960, following an inspection by John Crosby of the National Museum at Ottawa, a program involving building restoration and upgrading of the museum exhibits was carried out. Several new display cases were installed, and specimens of native mammals including deer, black bear, lynx, beaver, wolves and snowshoe rabbits were obtained for display. Most of the exhibits relating to Indian life, and representative specimens of birds, insects and butterflies of the region were retained. Botanical, geological and paleontological specimens were rearranged for display, and where necessary new specimens were obtained and carefully grouped.

Changes in Presentation

Early in 1967 it was agreed by the chief park naturalist, A.F. Helmsley, and members of the Interpretation Division at regional and park levels, that Riding Mountain Park needed museum renovations and a new interpretation concept. In July of that year the regional director for western parks submitted to Helmsley a story line prepared by the park naturalist, which would be followed in portraying the geological and human history of the park. It was summed up in the words, "Riding Mountain — the Past, Present and Future".

Through maps, drawings and a series of illustrated display panels, grouped in three stages, the park visitor could follow the changes in the form of the land comprising the park through successive geological periods.21 These included the Jurassic, the lower and upper Cretaceous and the Pleistocene (Ice Ages), all of which shaped the present landscape. At one time, the highest portion of the park rose like an island from the post-Cretaceous sea, and, as the waters receded, the steep escarpment on the eastern side of the park took form, leaving traces of ancient beach lines.

A major display illustrated the diversity of wildlife and plant life in Riding Mountain Park, including birds, small and large mammals, trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

The renovation proposal was accepted, and in 1968 a Winnipeg firm, Daly Display Limited, undertook the construction and installation of exhibits under contract. This work was supervised by John Crosby, the exhibit planner of the Interpretation Division at Ottawa. Complementing the exhibits in the interpretation centre was audiovisual equipment purchased for the lecture hall in the building. This equipment, including projectors and screen, is used in support of talks on the natural wonders of the park.

Interpretation Centres Expanded

During 1969 funds were made available for the renovation of the Point Pelee Nature Centre. New exhibits replaced those previously on display, and a small theater with a capacity of 150 persons was incorporated in the building. Equipment purchased for use in the theatre included five projectors, permitting special audiovisual projection with spoken and musical accompaniment.

An additional interpretation or nature centre was developed between 1971 and 1973 near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. A substantial building, constructed as an information centre in 1962-63, was converted for this purpose, and opened for public use in September 1973. Facing the Athabasca Glacier, the most accessible glacier flowing from the Columbia Icefield, it has an ideal location for the interpretation of the unique geological phenomena in the vicinity.

Interpretive Program Broadened

Early in 1968 the interpretation section, now a part of the Operations Division of the National and Historic Parks Branch, initiated a program which involved the planning and construction of additional interpretive facilities in the national parks. As proposed, the first phase of the program would extend over a five-year period, concerned with the development of interpretation centres, outdoor amphitheatres, on-site exhibits and nature trails. As envisioned, the cost of projects approved would not exceed $275;000 for interpretation centres and $25,000 for on-site exhibits. These figures were expected to include the cost of preconstruction design, site improvement, exhibits, furnishings and equipment. Proposed developments would be suggested by park naturalists. On approval by the regional director, preliminary plans would be prepared in the Engineering and Architectural Division at Ottawa. On final approval, if funds were available, implementation of the project would proceed.22

Some changes in the proposed plans were brought about by cost estimates which were higher than expected, by the length of time required to construct interpretation centres, and by indecision about their location. The solution was the development of mobile interpretation centres, using a number of trailers obtained from Crown Assets Disposal Corporation. Eight vehicles which had been used in 1967 by the Canadian Centennial Commission were purchased at a cost of $6,500 each. The centennial exhibit in each vehicle was replaced with a new display relating to the park concerned, along with audiovisual projection equipment. This permitted the use of films and slides with sound accompaniment.

Of the eight trailers purchased, six were allotted for use in national parks and two in national historic parks or sites. Following the necessary renovations and installations, these mobile interpretation centers were opened in Terra Nova, Prince Edward Island and Kejimkujik Parks in the Atlantic provinces, at Georgian Bay Islands Park in Ontario, Saskatchewan Crossing in Banff Park, and Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. Another trailer was opened at Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, east of Banff National Park, the site of an early trading post established in 1799 by the North-West Company of Montreal. Although originally used as a temporary expedient, some of the trailers are still in use.

On-Site Exhibits Constructed

The expanded program of the interpretation service indicated a need for a specialist in exhibit design. A new position was established in 1968, and staffed by an exhibit planner, Bruce Harding. Harding had previously been employed in the interpretation service of the Ontario provincial park system. Harding and John Crosby, the design specialist for interpretive installations, were responsible for work necessary in the development of interpretation centers and trailers, and for the design and installation of on-site exhibits.

During the period from 1968 to 1970, several attractive on-site exhibits were completed in parks across Canada. One installed at Vermilion Lakes, near Banff, showed the characteristics and habitat of the bighorn or Rocky Mountain sheep, one of the most prevalent large mammals native to the park. An exhibit in Waterton Lakes Park focused on the bison or buffalo which one populated the western plains of North America in great numbers. A small herd of bison had been established in the park nearby. Another on-site exhibit at Takakkaw Falls in Yoho Park explains the origin and nature of the spectacular falls that cascade into the Yoho Valley canyon. In the Atlantic provinces, an exhibit in Kejimkujik National Park is concerned with ancient petroglyphs or rock carvings discovered near Kejimkujik Lake; another at Herring Cove in Fundy National Park calls attention to the tides in the Bay of Fundy, probably the highest in the world. In Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, an exhibit on the Lake Audy plains relates to the bison; a small herd of bison was reestablished in the vicinity of the lake by park authorities in 1931.

Another on-site exhibit installed on Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park in 1971 called attention to the aquatic life around Fairy Lake, and to the geology of the region. The area surrounding this small lake is extremely rocky and supports coniferous trees, unlike the southern portion of the island where the forest is largely deciduous. In 1974 the former park administration building on Beausoleil Island was redeveloped as an interpretation centre incorporating a small theatre and numerous exhibits.

Traveling Trailer Exhibit

In the early 1970s a special interpretation project was aimed at Quebec residents, to make them aware of the national parks recently established in that province — La Mauricie and Forillon. The need for such a project was urged by Peter Lesaux, assistant director of national parks. What was required was a traveling exhibit that would appeal to Quebec residents who, it was believed, did not appreciate the purposes of national or provincial parks, apart from hunting and fishing.

Alan Helmsley and his exhibit designer, Bruce Harding, interviewed officers of the exposition section of Information Canada and arranged for the production of three separate design concepts. One proposal involved the use of open-sided trucks which would permit the use of both audiovisual and other displays. None of the designs was approved, however, and interpretation staff had considerable difficulty deciding what type of exhibit was wanted. Eventually an alternative design concept, offered by Shirley Popham, head of the department's Conservation Program information unit was approved. This involved the use of a large trailer, outfitted to the desired design and specifications by officers of the exposition section; slides for audiovisual presentations were supplied by the Interpretation Division. Personnel accompanying the trailer on its itinerary through Quebec included two chanteuses, whose songs were accompanied by guitar music. The trailer design differed substantially from that of mobile trailers used at interpretation centers in other national parks, and the results obtained were disappointing. The vehicle had poor air circulation, and in hot weather proved uncomfortable for both visitors and staff. Eventually the proposed itinerary was curtailed and the project was abandoned.

Information Services Regrouped

Preceding paragraphs have reviewed the activities of the education and interpretation section, along with the work of park information services. But changes in departmental organization in 1968, which had the effect of separating the park information and interpretation functions, make it desirable to review these two activities separately.

Between 1966 and 1968, a departmental reorganization seriously affected the information and interpretation units of the National Parks Branch, which operated under the supervision of the director. Under authority of a Treasury Board minute of March 3, 1966, the branch officially became the National and Historic Parks Branch, and the Canadian Wildlife Service became a separate branch of the department.23 The Government Organization Act, effective June 16, 1966, altered the name of the department from Northern Affairs and National Resources to Indian Affairs and Northern Development.24 Included within the new department, was the Indian Affairs Branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. A revision of responsibilities brought the National and Historic Parks Branch within the Conservation Program under the administrative authority of the senior assistant deputy minister. After a further review of legislation, objectives, policies and existing organization structures, further changes were announced by the new deputy Minister, J.A. MacDonald, in 1968. They included the appointment of J.H. Gordon as senior assistant deputy minister responsible for the Conservation Program.

Although the departmental establishment had, since 1962, included an Information Services Division, most branches of the department also had their own publicity or information unit. In 1967 MacDonald, after consultation with his executive assistant, W.D. Mills, and other officers, decided to have these services or units brought under a senior information officer. Subsequently, a departmental press release of October 24, 1967, announced the appointment of Michael Dibben as public information adviser for the department. Before his appointment, Dibben had been in charge of press, radio and television services for Expo 1967. His background included extensive service in the British and Canadian armed forces, in which he served as a press officer and as editor of an armed services newspaper. Mr. Dibben reported for duty in November 1967.

Park Services Affected

Meanwhile, Sydney Roberts had continued for some time as a one-man information unit for the National and Historic Parks Branch. Besides maintaining liaison with the Information Services Division in preparing press releases, writing speeches for senior department officials, and rebuilding a photographic library, Roberts had completed the revision and reprinting of the series of park information folders developed before the transfer of park publicity media to the Canadian Government Travel Bureau. In 1967 D.D. Melville of the Information Services Division had been transferred to the National and Historic Parks Branch as a press relations officer. One of Melville's contributions was the compilation, editing and printing of a portfolio of park photographs in color, which were selected from a large group of negatives exposed on special assignment for the branch by a Vancouver photographer.

In March 1968 Roberts accepted the position of information officer with the Department of Labour. Darrell Eagles, who had been an information officer for the Canadian Wildlife Service, then took over the duties of chief information officer for the conservation group. These included supervision of information activities for both the National and Historic Parks Branch and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Further changes in departmental and parks information personnel occurred in 1970. In January J.A. MacDonald was appointed deputy minister of the Department of Public Works, and on his departure from Indian Affairs arranged for Michael Dibben to head the information services of his new department. Dibben's position in Indian Affairs and Northern Development was filled later in the year by Kenneth White. In November 1970 the Canadian Wildlife Service was merged with the Department of Fisheries and Forestry, which on June 11, 1971 became a component of a new Department of the Environment. Darrell Eagles accompanied other members of the Canadian Wildlife Service involved in the transfer, and accepted a position in the Information and Consumers Division of the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.

Departmental Reorganization

The office of the public information adviser in 1970 was providing information and public relations services for three major programs of the Department — Indian and northern affairs, northern development, and conservation. Each program was served by a specialized information unit which was seconded to the program concerned. In turn, each seconded unit was supported by administrative and specialized services, including design, graphic arts, print production service, audio-visual displays and exhibits under the general supervision of the Public Information Adviser.

Effective April 1, 1973, a reorganization of the Conservation Program changed its name to Parks Canada, and created a new position of director general who, with the directors of five national park regions, reported to a senior assistant deputy minister for the Parks Canada program.

The reorganization also provided for an information services division for the program, on assignment from the public information adviser. The information services unit responsible for publicity for national and national historic parks, and for educational activities under the Conservation Program, had been headed since 1970 by Shirley Popham. She continued in that capacity for the Parks Canada program until April 1, 1974, when she became acting public information adviser on the departure of K.F. White from the department. In September, 1974, Miss Popham was seconded to the Privy Council Office, to supervise an information service created to assist the secretariat for International Womens' Year.

New Director Appointed

On April 1, 1974, W.D. Mills, who had been secretary of the department and later an assistant director in the northern affairs program, was appointed director of the Department's information services — now known as the Public Information Branch. He served in that capacity until 1976, when he was selected as departmental representative for a special training course at National Defence College. On his return to the department, he became deputy director general for northern pipelines in the Northern Affairs program.

Information units of the Public Information Branch which had been assigned to various departmental programs were decentralized in 1975. They have since operated independently as components of the programs they serve, under a chief who reports to the assistant deputy minister. In 1976 the remaining support units of the Public Information Branch were merged with the Parliamentary Affairs Division and the departmental secretariat to form a new branch — Public and Parliamentary Affairs. A further reorganization, late in 1978, brought the information support services — including publishing, graphic design and the staff magazine — under the director of administrative services.

Following the departure of Shirley Popham from Parks Canada Information Division, several members served in succession as acting chief. In December, 1975, James Shearon was appointed chief of the Parks Canada Information Division. With a background in press, radio and television work, Shearon undertook the task of providing the Parks Canada program with an adequate information service. He instituted new measures for publicizing the attractions, advantages and benefits accruing from personal use of the national parks.

New Publications Issued

On June 1, 1972, jurisdiction over six canal systems in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario was transferred from the Department of Transport to Indian and Northern Affairs. This led to the development of a new program known as Byways and Special Places, later changed to Agreements for Recreation and Conservation. The National Parks program was broadened to embrace canal systems, national marine parks, national landmarks and wild rivers. In cooperation with other departments and governments, new programs were initiated to meet the growing need of urban residents for recreation in quiet country places, along historic trails and natural avenues of water travel. Their recreational potential was set forth in two attractive illustrated publications printed in color in 1972 by the National Parks information unit. Entitled Special Places and Byways and Special Places, they provided the reader with brief descriptions of the 28 units comprising Canada's national park system, and portrayed various forms of outdoor life and recreation against attractive scenic backgrounds.

The reorganization of the National Parks Branch as Parks Canada in 1973 increased the three existing administrative regions to five, and provided for an information services unit in each region. A direct result of this phase of reorganization was a growth in the number of publications about natural phenomena, native wildlife and the recreational advantages available in national parks. These publications included revised editions of the national park information folders that had been introduced in the late 1930s, and a complementary series of folders describing national historic parks and sites. The compilation, editing and printing of much of this material fell to regional information and interpretive officers. Regional information staff, with the assistance of park interpretive officers, undertook the production of aids to interpretation and extension programs: guides to nature trails, leaflets and folders describing natural phenomena, as well as posters and maps.

Wild Rivers Featured

Another accomplishment was the compilation of a series of attractive illustrated pamphlets describing wild rivers in Canada. In 1971 the Planning Division of the National and Historic Parks Branch began a study of wild rivers situated in little-travelled regions of Canada, to assess their natural significance and recreational potential. The first study, undertaken in Yukon Territory, covered the examination of 15 rivers. The success of the study led to an extension of the project in 1972 to the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec, and to other areas in 1973. The studies were conducted by seasonal crews of students, directed by two project managers from the Planning Division in Ottawa. By 1979, from individual reports of the river studies, editors of Parks Canada's Information Division produced eight publications describing wild rivers in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Newfoundland, Yukon Territory, the northern barren lands and the James Bay and Hudson Bay regions.

Audiovisual Presentations

In 1976 the Parks Canada Information Division launched a series of short color films which were distributed to Canadian television stations. Made by the National Film Board, they provided views of many of the national parks recently established in Canada, from Pacific Rim on the Pacific Ocean to Gros Morne and Forillon Parks on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The films also provided glimpses of national historic parks and sites. Altogether 13 films were released — four in 1976, six in 1977 and three in 1978. That year a series of seven-minute films was released for distribution to movie theatres. A new departure was a commercial advertising campaign instituted in 1978, using such periodicals as the Canadian Geographical Journal, Macleans, Chatelaine and Readers Digest.

A group of scenic photographs of the national parks of Canada, taken for the branch between 1920 and 1945 by the late W.J. Oliver of Calgary, was mounted as an exhibition. The collection subsequently was on view in several prominent buildings in Ottawa, and later toured Canada's larger cities.

Two volumes of A History of Canada's National Parks were published in English and French in 1976 and 1977. A third volume was completed in 1978 and published in 1979. Publications printed for free distribution included a Guide to Camping in the National Parks of Canada and a Guide to the National Historic Parks and Sites of Canada. Another new pamphlet, National Parks — Who We Are and What We Do, summarized the functions and organization of the Parks Canada program. It also outlined the organization of a national parks region, and the administrative branches at departmental headquarters at Ottawa — including National Parks, National Historic Parks and Sites, and Program Coordination. The pamphlet included a complete list of the ministers of the various departments which had been responsible for national park administration, beginning with the Department of the Interior established in 1873.

Interpretation Activities Expanded

Although a reorganization of the department in 1968 had resulted in some changes in the information services, the National Parks interpretation section continued as a unit of the Operations Division, National and Historic Parks Branch. The chief park naturalist, Alan Helmsley, had made progress in widening the role of interpretation in the Conservation Program. During the 1968 season, field staff had been increased to include, in 14 national parks, a total of 17 permanent park naturalists and 33 seasonal naturalists. Before the season ended, interpretive programs had been presented to more than 750,000 visitors. By 1969 the new interpretation centres, the use of trailers to present the displays and interpretive messages, and the newly completed on-site exhibits, had helped swell the attendance at park interpretation programs to a new high of 825,000.

Early interpretive planning had been concentrated on national parks already established. But consideration was also given to areas examined as potential parks. As agreements were reached with the governments of the provinces or territories concerned, preliminary planning was undertaken so that interpretation activities would not be delayed unduly when the new parks were officially established. The creation of Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia in 1968, and Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick in 1969, highlighted the need for additional staff to complete interpretation planning for these and future parks.

In March 1970, through open competition, the interpretation section recruited Grant E. Tayler, a former associate of Alan Helmsley in the Ontario provincial park system. A biologist, Tayler had served as a seasonal naturalist in Algonquin Park as early as 1956, and from 1959 to 1965 had been chief park naturalist there. Following Helmsley's Ottawa appointment, Tayler took over the supervision of park interpretation in the Ontario park system. In 1970 he won a competition for a position of interpretation specialist in the national parks interpretation service, and began his new duties in March that year.

The addition of Grant Tayler to Helmsley's staff, however, was offset by the departure of Dalton Muir. Muir had been active in helping to establish interpretation units in the individual national parks, and carried out field reconnaissance studies so essential for interpretative planning. He accepted a transfer to the Canadian Wildlife Service in June, 1970, to undertake environmental studies in the Northwest Territories on the impact of natural resource development by private enterprise.

From 1969 to 1972 the head office staff of the interpretation section was under heavy pressure from the branch directorate to complete park interpretation planning, arrange for field research, coordinate individual park programs and use increased appropriations being made available by parliament. With a limited staff available, some projects were completed but others were not.

Planning for a large interpretation centre in Waterton Lakes National Park began about 1969, and a substantial sum was included in the national parks estimates for 1970-71, as a portion of a contemplated overall expenditure of $500,000. A site overlooking Lower Waterton Lake was originally selected for the centre, and considerable time and effort were devoted to its overall planning. An appropriation was continued in the departmental estimates for 1972-73, although the contemplated overall expenditure was reduced. Eventually the project was cancelled by the director of the National and Historic Parks Branch. Instead a new indoor theatre was constructed in the townsite of Waterton Park, to replace an outdoor amphitheatre which had been used by park interpretation officers for audiovisual productions and other presentations. The site selected for the new theatre within the townsite area, near Cameron Falls, was readily accessible from the park campground; it was also close to the fish-rearing ponds, which continued to be a popular attraction for visitors.

Cheticamp Interpretation Centre

Although plans for a large interpretation centre at Waterton Lakes National Park were discarded, the park interpretation section had better luck with a similar project in the Atlantic region. Planning for an interpretation centre near the Cheticamp entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia was under way by 1971, and the park estimates for the ensuing five years included an appropriation for the project. Major construction, however, was delayed until 1975, and the center was completed the following year at a cost of nearly $450,000.

Research Projects

There was only a limited staff with the requisite academic qualifications to undertake research projects related to the needs of an interpretation service. Part-time assistants were therefore engaged under service contracts. Although Stirrett, Muir and Helmsley all were qualified to undertake scientific investigation, administrative duties pre-empted much of their time. This difficulty was largely overcome, however, by engaging university staff with degrees in biology, geology, history and other subjects. Research was usually carried out during summer periods when the university personnel members engaged were free from normal duties.

From 1965 to 1970 inclusive, research studies were undertaken under 46 separate contracts. Studies included botanical and ornithological research in Point Pelee National Park, the exploration of caves in Glacier, Jasper and Banff national parks, and geological studies in several of the mountain parks. Among the notable explorations completed was that of Castleguard caves in the Columbia Icefield, in the vicinity of Mount Castleguard.

Until 1971 most of the work in drawing up contracts fell to the national park staff at Ottawa. That year it was decided that the terms of reference for a contract could best be prepared by park naturalists, and later referred to the branch director at Ottawa through the offices of regional directors.

Interpretation Planning Decentralized

By December 1971 it was agreed by Alan Helmsley and senior officers of the National Parks Branch at Ottawa that the interpretive planning function should be decentralized to the regional offices of the Atlantic, central and western regions. At that time, Helmsley and his limited staff were responsible for interpretation planning. The staff consisted of Grant Tayler, the interpretation specialist, and three interpretation planners — Robert Gray, William Wyett and Mary Dwyer. The three last-named officers had been recalled from park interpretation duties to Ottawa. The technical staff consisted of Bruce Harding and John Crosby, design and exhibit specialists. Another officer, Gordon Avent, was responsible for the administration of the section, including financial and contract coordination. Later he undertook these responsibilities for the entire Operations Division.

Reassignment of staff began in April 1972. Gray went to the Atlantic region at Halifax, and Wyett to the central region at Cornwall. The position of interpretation planner for the western region at Calgary remained vacant for some time before John MacFarlane was transferred there from Fundy Park. The design specialist, Bruce Harding, also was assigned to Calgary, while John Crosby, who was slated for the Atlantic region at Halifax, decided to return to the Design and Technical Services Division of the National Museums of Canada in Ottawa. Interpretation projects of varying character were then under way or contemplated in 18 national parks — six in the Atlantic region, five in the Central region, and seven in the Western region. Priorities were established for a number of these projects, and others were deferred.

Early Interpretation Planning

A significant factor in the extension of park interpretation in Canada's national parks has been the development of interpretation planning. Introduced by Alan Helmsley in 1965, it was carried on sporadically for several national parks until 1972, when steps were taken to establish a plan for the whole park system. In February 1972 interpretation officers from all existing parks and park regions attended a seminar conducted by Grant Tayler in the interpretation centre at Point Pelee National Park. Here, under the coordination of Tayler, the basis for a unified approach to national park planning was reached through the development a conceptual interpretation plan for Point Pelee Park.

During the two years following, the efforts of a planning team coordinated by John MacFarlane, interpretation planner for the western region, resulted in a composite interpretation plan for seven mountain parks: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Waterton Lakes, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks. Much of the teams's success was achieved by a departure in method using a conservation approach to interpretation rather than the traditional natural resources approach. By combining a systems approach with communications planning, the team achieved a basis for subsequent programs and projects throughout the western region. It has since been adopted by other national park regions in Canada and other countries.

The planning team responsible for the mountain parks conceptual plan included the coordinator, John MacFarlane; Bruce Harding, media planner, and Kurt Seel, interpretive specialist, both of the western region; chief park naturalists Ross Dobson, Bob Greyell, Ian Jack and Dave Neilson; and park naturalists Greg Belland, Don Karasiuk and Jim Todgham.

Helmsley Bows Out

Meanwhile Alan Helmsley, who had headed the interpretation section since 1965, had been giving personal consideration to the changes in administration that were under way. At this point he had spent 25 years in interpretation work in the Ontario and federal public services; and in establishing programs and recruiting personnel for more than 20 national parks, he had achieved considerable success with the aid of a small executive staff. He had, however, experienced some frustration in reconciling his proposals with those of his senior officers; and the department's decision to decentralize interpretation activities and delegate exhibit planning and programs to the park regional offices finally triggered his departure.

The Public Service Commission referred Helmsley to the National Museums of Canada, reorganized as a corporation in 1968. At that time the corporation was establishing its "museumobile" program, and Helmsley believed that he could make an adequate contribution in that field. After discussions with the assistant director of National Parks and the director of the Museum of Natural Sciences, Helmsley was seconded to the museum staff. A formal transfer was arranged later.

Helmsley's immediate task, undertaken on April 14, 1972, was the development of an interpretation program that would be implemented after the opening of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in the reconstructed National Museums building in Ottawa. Helmsley already had served under Dr. Louis Lemieux, director of the new museum, while Lemieux was chief of the National Parks Service, from August 1969 to May 1970. Helmsley remained with the Museum of Natural Sciences until his retirement in June 1977, after serving as chief of interpretation and extension and later as exhibits adviser.

The duties of chief of national parks interpretation were carried on by Grant Tayler as acting coordinator. On April 1, 1973, with the reorganization of the Conservation Program as the Parks Canada Program, the interpretation function was given new status and a new name — the Interpretation and Extension Division. The division was now responsible to the director of the National Parks Branch for the development and coordination of policies relating to the interpretive programs in the national parks; for the extension of programs to schools and outside groups; for interpretive research; for park information systems; for international and special visitors' programs; and for maintaining a speakers' bureau.

Additional Staff Acquired

From 1972 to 1975, replacements were obtained for staff members transferred to regional offices. A notable addition was Gary D. Sealey, who joined the National Parks Branch late in June 1973 as an interpretation specialist. A native of British Columbia, he had attended schools and university in that province, specializing in history and English. He obtained a master's degree in history at the University of Western Ontario in 1970. Later he was employed in the Parks Division, Ministry of Natural Resources for Ontario, filling the positions of historical research officer, research historian and park interpretation supervisor. While engaged in provincial interpretation work in Ontario, he was active in helping to expand the provincial parks system. He undertook the regionalization of several aspects of the Ontario parks functions, and developed a children's interpretive program at eight different provincial parks for two successive years. Besides lecturing, he participated in seasonal naturalist workshop and in planning and policy seminars. In 1972 the Interpretation Division staff at Ottawa was augmented by a project officer, J.P. Foley, and an audiovisual specialist, B.R. Dore. By 1973 the division staff numbered eight, including some members who had served as park naturalists before being transferred to Ottawa.

Division Chief Appointed

In January 1975 the long-vacant post of chief of the Interpretation and Extension Division was advertised, and the examining board selected Gary Sealey for the position, effective February 3, 1975. Subsequent reorganization confirmed Grant Tayler as head of planning and development; other officers were given responsibility for interpretive planning, extension services, interpretive services, program evaluation and cooperative activities. In 1973, a new interpretation division was established to plan and direct interpretive programs for the national historic parks and major historic sites. This history, however, is concerned only with national parks, and additional information on historic parks interpretation may be obtained from the National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada, Ottawa.

1979 Administrative Changes

A further change in the responsibilities and functions of the Interpretation and Extension Division of the National Parks Branch occurred on March 1, 1979. With the approval of the assistant deputy minister for Parks Canada, the visitor services section of the Park Activities Division was transferred to the Interpretation Division to form a new Interpretation and Visitor Services Division. Gary Sealey remained as chief of the new division. In turn, the cooperative activities section of the Interpretation Division was merged with the rest of the park activities section to form the Communities and Cooperative Activities Division, headed by Donald Lockwood. Grant Tayler now was responsible for interpretation services, John MacFarlane for extension activities, and James Lunney for visitor services policy. Assisting Donald Lockwood were Blair Stevens in cooperative activities, Jean Pilon in management plan review, and Ken Craigie in community relations.

More Recent Programs

Considerable space would be needed to relate in detail the numerous activities and programs of the Interpretation and Visitor Services Division. Consequently, this chapter will conclude with brief descriptions of some of the more successful methods employed in publicizing the benefits and attractions which national parks hold for Canadians. As newer forms of presentation are unfolded, it can be expected that public participation will increase, resulting in a better understanding and appreciation of this part of our national heritage.

The reorganization of the former Conservation Program as the Parks Canada Program in 1973 created a broader field of endeavor for staff members engaged in interpretation activities. The section responsible was renamed the Interpretation and Extension Division, with a view to bringing about a wider understanding of the parks to cities, homes and schools. A major study of educational needs for national parks was undertaken, and an interagency task force began research into ways of improving park education. Interpretation and extension programs and methods were evaluated to determine what steps were necessary to make them more effective.

An important interpretation project commenced in 1974 was the preparation of major audiovisual programs for national parks. These took the form of multiprojection slide shows, with musical and narrative sound accompaniment. Two shows dealt with the new national parks in the province of Quebec — La Mauricie and Forillon — while two others described the national parks of eastern and western Canada. Within two years, each of the national park regions had developed its own audiovisual unit and the headquarters unit at Ottawa was disbanded.

Parks Conservation Corps

During the summer of 1971 the National and Historic Parks Branch had sponsored a junior park warden program in Fundy and Georgian Bay Islands National Parks. It was undertaken as an experiment to enable young Canadians to study park resources, wildlife and fisheries management. Officers of the Interpretation Division were involved in the training program which, in its initial year, proved very successful.

In 1972 the program was expanded as the National Parks Conservation Corps. Funds were provided in 1973 to recruit, through Canada Manpower offices and schools, candidates for 16 positions in each of 11 national parks across the country, permitting training opportunities for 176 students. The program was continued through successive years until 1978-79, when it was temporarily suspended. During the seventh year of its operation, the Conservation Corps program offered training for 224 students in 14 national parks.25 The students were instructed in trail and trail bridge construction, forest fire prevention and suppression, wildlife surveys, restocking of park waters with game fish, and other phases of park conservation activity. They were also trained in the use of boats and canoes. Camps in some parks were confined to boys, in others to girls; in some parks both boys and girls were accommodated. Canada's native population was also represented.

Park Awareness Program

The year 1976 marked the beginning of a "park awareness" program, a successful cooperative venture under which sponsoring conservation agencies hired 42 students to create meaningful projects for communicating the purpose of national parks to Canadians. Projects undertaken included student mime-theater presentations, traveling exhibits, a compilation of St. Lawrence Seaway historic songs, educational media for schools and social club use, and other projects telling the story of national parks to audiences across the land. Parks Canada provided the funds to the sponsoring agencies, which in turn paid the students involved. The budget for the project was $100,000.

One of the most successful projects was a travelling clown show, Fantasy National Park, which was sponsored by Heritage Canada in cooperation with Ottawa's Theatre Resources Centre. An early performance was given in the National Conference Centre, Ottawa, before a large audience of Parks Canada and other departmental personnel. Later the show was staged in major cities in Canada from coast to coast. The Ontario regional office of Parks Canada published a whimsical guide to reptiles and amphibians found in the national parks in Ontario, entitled Foul and Loathsome Creatures.

The Canadian beaver, a symbol long associated with Canada's national parks, was selected as a logo identification for Parks Canada, complementing a successful sign program. At the same time uniforms for male and female Parks Canada staff were modernized.

Low Power Radio Transmission

The year 1973 saw the experimental use of low-wattage radio transmitters. Then, beginning in 1975, standard broadcast French and English language stations began operation at the Columbia Ice Field interpretation centre in Jasper National Park, and at park information centres at Rogers Pass in Glacier Park and at Ingonish Beach in Cape Breton Highlands Park. The use of these transmitters enabled visiting motorists equipped with radios to tune in on taped programs broadcast on standard bands, which provided information on notable park features and public facilities. Difficulties experienced in broadcast strength and the servicing of imported equipment led to the development of Canadian 5-watt transmitting equipment which overcame these problems. The success achieved in the experiment led to additional installations being made in Waterton Lakes, Banff, and Prince Edward Island National Parks.

Communications Program

Another interpretation program was launched as a pilot project in 1976, using park concessionaires. Concesssionaires in Banff National Park who bring the visiting public into direct contact with the park environment were invited to participate in the scheme which, as envisioned, would produce a multiplier effect. This involved the use of various agencies and personnel, not directly employed by Parks Canada, to promote its communications objectives.

During the first season of the program's operation, the superintendent of Banff Park engaged Sheila Robinson on contract to train concessionaires' employees. Mrs. Robinson, had previously been a seasonal member of the park interpretation staff. The training sessions attracted employees drawn mainly from the largest motor tour operator in the park. Lecture subjects included the history of the park, its flora and fauna, geology, park administration, examples of unique natural phenomena, and outstanding scenic landmarks. After training, the concessionaires' employees staff members, were able to interpret the areas in which they operated to a larger number of visitors.

The program was an unqualified success. It was repeated in 1977, when 208 members of concessionaire staffs registered at training sessions. These were drawn from companies engaged in bus tours, boat and raft tours, gondola and cable car lifts, and major hotels. In 1978 the number of trainees accepted for training rose to 709. That same year Mrs. Robinson produced a reference manual entitled The Book of Banff This manual, used to supplement formal training sessions, contained a great deal of information on subjects of interest to park visitors. Its 160 pages contained sections devoted to the flora and fauna of the park, descriptions of the park's geology and glaciology, a brief park history and details of national parks administration.26 Copies were made available to local schools, libraries and national park staff. The original edition of 300 copies was rapidly exhausted, and a second edition of 1,500 copies was printed in 1979. At the time of writing, the program gave promise of further expansion, with a similar program planned for Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks.

Cooperative Activities

In July 1978 Hugh Faulkner, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced a study of a proposal to provide for the establishment of a non-government, non-profit association dedicated to the promotion and interpretation of the values of Canada's national parks. As proposed, the National Parks Cooperating Association would maintain activity centers in or near each of the national parks. Its function would be the enhancement of public appreciation and enjoyment of the national heritage.

The study, aimed at determining the best arrangements for establishing the cooperating association, was entrusted to Dr. Theodore Mosquin, a former director of the Canadian Nature Federation. Dr. Mosquin's report was received by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs in May, 1979, and at the time of writing, its recommendations were being studied.27 Cooperative activities would involve a sharing of resources, expertise and responsibilities to achieve common objectives. Such activities, initiated by Parks Canada, would rest on formal arrangements to achieve a more beneficial result than any of the parties could have achieved by itself. The cooperating association and its agencies would produce, sell and distribute park-related publications and similar items to the public on a cost-recovery basis. They would operate their own information outlets, expand library facilities, extend support to interpretation activities and assist in providing visitor information. Plans called for the association to become self-sufficient through profits from the sale of items to the public.


During the 20 years that followed the launching of an authentic interpretation program in Canada's national parks, much was accomplished. Permanent naturalists were appointed in most of the larger and easily accessible parks, and new methods of interpretation had been developed. More visitors than ever before were learning why national parks were established, and discovering through personal experience the benefits to be derived from using them. In 1965, when the first permanent park naturalist positions were created, 12 permanent field staff were divided among 12 parks, while seasonal staff totalled 13. By comparison, in 1978-79 the permanent staff involved in interpretation activities in 26 national parks was 51, and seasonal staff engaged numbered 131.

Nearly 50 years ago J.B. Harkin, Commissioner of National Parks, made the following observation:

The day will come when the population of Canada will be ten times as great as it is now, but the National Parks ensure that every Canadian, by right of citizenship, will still have free access to vast areas possessing some of the finest scenery in Canada, in which the beauty of the landscape is protected from profanation, the natural wild animals, plants and forests preserved, and the peace and solitude of primeval nature retained.28

During the interval, the number of our national parks has increased substantially and their areas have expanded, thus enhancing the opportunities for Canadians to visit and enjoy them. Parks Canada — the administrative authority — is now entering an era of cooperative resource management and of new technology in communications. This is a period in which Canadians are indicating, more than ever, a desire to help Parks Canada to increase opportunities for their fellow citizens to visit, appreciate and enjoy this part of the national heritage. With the 1985 centennial of Canada's national park system approaching, preparations were under way to celebrate the anniversary. The Interpretation and Visitor Services Division of Parks Canada was counted upon to exert every effort to help Canadians to participate and gain a new insight into what national parks mean to the nation .


1 Tilden, Freeman, Interpreting our Heritage. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1957.

2 Helmsley, Alan F. Background Paper on Park Interpretation, National and Historic Parks Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, 1971.

3 National Parks Branch file B.318 (Vol. 1). Letter G.A. Stewart to the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Ottawa, August 18, 1890. (Public Archives of Canada)

4 Ibid. Letter John Macoun to A.M. Burgess, February 18, 1892.

5 Annual Report, Department of the Interior, Ottawa, 1896.

6 National Parks Branch file B.318 (Vol. 1). Letter August 1, 1892, George Macleod to Edgar Dewdney. (Public Archives of Canada)

7 Order in Council P.C. 1289, July 9, 1923. National Parks Branch bile B.318-1, (Vol. 4).

8 Smith, Harlan I. Handbook of the Rocky Mountains Park Museum. King's Printer, Ottawa, 1914.

9 Skyline Trail Hikers Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 1943 (C.P.R.).

10 National Parks Branch file B.318 (Vol. 3). Memorandum December 17, 1943, C.H.D. Clarke to R.J.C. Stead.

11 Ibid. Letter, October 7, 1957, Alvin Hamilton to Gordon McGachie.

12 Ibid. (Vol. 4) Memorandum Jan. 31, 1958, J.R.B. Coleman to the Deputy Minister.

13 Ibid. Memorandum April 16, 1958, E.A. Côtê to National Parks Branch.

14 Ibid. Letter Sept. 3, 1958, Dora Stocken to G.H.L. Dempster.

15 Annual Report, Dept. of the Interior, Ottawa, 1908-09. p. xxxv.

16 National Parks Branch file P.A. 174-18.

17 Annual Report, Department of Mines and Resources, Ottawa, 1947-48 p. 175.

18 Annual Report, Department of Mines and Resources, 1948-49, p. 159.

19 Toronto Star, August 11, 1958. Parks Canada file U. 108 (Vol. 1).

20 Annual Report, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1966-67, p. 77.

21 National Parks Branch bile R.M. 318 (Vol. 5). Memorandum July 5, 1967.

22 National Parks Branch file U. 108 (Vol. 9). Memorandum June 18, 1968 R.F. Flanagan to J.E. Savage.

23 Treasury Board Minute 651749, March 3, 1966.

24 Statutes of Canada, 14-15, Elizabeth II, Chap. 25.

25 Annual Report, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1977-78, p. 7.

26 Robinson, Sheila. The Book of Banff — A Handbook of Information on Banff National Park. Parks Canada Information Service, 1978.

27 Mosquin, Theodore. Cooperating Associations for Parks Canada — A Proposal. Parks Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, 1979.

28 Williams, M.B. The Origin and Meaning of the National Parks of Canada. (A compilation of the original notes and papers of J.B. Harkin). H.R. Larsen Publishing Co., Saskatoon, Sask. 1957.

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