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Canada’s First Provincial Park

For the week of Monday May 17, 2010 

This week, in 1893, Algonquin Provincial Park was established in Ontario, to the north of Toronto and the west of Ottawa. As the first provincial park in Canada, Algonquin Park was where many of the problems facing multi-purpose parks across Canada were first recognized and addressed beginning in the 1940s. Forest conservation, logging, wildlife protection, and outdoor recreation have all been factors in the park’s development.

Lake of Two Rivers
© Parks Canada / A. Guindon
At the time of Algonquin’s creation, the area of the modern park had a number of uses. The lumber industry was important to the local economy, and hunting and fishing were commonly practiced. Because of this, the natural resources of the region were being depleted, and both the lumber industry and the government realised that something had to be done. The idea that Canadians enjoyed the wilderness, in its natural state, was also beginning to gain traction. These goals - of economic growth, wildlife preservation, resource management, and public enjoyment - while sometimes contradictory, were all factors in the creation of the park.

The park did allow hunting, fishing and logging to continue. However restrictions were put in place so that wildlife populations could survive and areas that were logged were allowed to regenerate. Selective logging, supervised and regulated by the government, continues today. Only First Nations people, who have on-going land claims in the park, have the right to hunt there, since 1991. Fishing continues as well, and has been one of Algonquin’s major attractions since it first opened, for both Canadians and tourists.

Black-backed woodpecker in Algonquin Park
© Parks Canada / M. Finklestein
Algonquin Park’s forests and lakes are a perfect example of the wilderness that covers much of the Canadian Shield. Their beauty has been an inspiration to many famous Canadian artists like Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, a group of Canadian artists famous for creating a distinct Canadian style of painting in the 1920s and early 1930s. It is also a place where Canadians can enjoy canoeing, camping, fishing, hiking, and many more activities while leaving as small an imprint on that environment as possible. Although its successes in conservation and resource management are important, Algonquin Park is most well known for allowing generations of Canadians to experience Canada’s natural beauty.

Algonquin Provincial Park was designated a National Historic Site in 1992. Tom Thomson was designated a National Historic Person in 1958, and the Group of Seven were designated a National Historic Event in 1974.

For more information on the Group of Seven, see Canada on Public Display, A.J. Casson: The Youngest of the Group of Seven, and Farwell to Famed International Painter Lawren S. Harris. For more information on Tom Thomson, see The Legend of Tom Thomson.

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