If you are still looking for one of the best summer job experiences out there, applications close this Friday. If you’re wondering what that job might be, read on…
43K Wilderness Solutions is the company that operates Cape Scott and Strathcona Provincial Parks, as well as Goose Spit Regional Park. Every spring, as the snow begins to retreat from our peaks and the mud on the trail gets harder and harder, we start our search for a team of dedicated outdoor enthusiasts. They will be the ones to maintain the parks during our busy season.
If you’ve been hiking in Cape Scott or Strathcona before, you have probably seen one of our staff with a park operator badge. Most likely this guy:
But what does his job look like? And why might you want it?
Being a Park Facilities Operator is a rewarding and physically demanding task. You get to spend most, if not all, of your working summer outside. A huge part of the job is to explore and enjoy the gems of Vancouver Island alongside a team of supportive, likeminded individuals. We’ve interviewed a couple of our past staff to let you in on their experience. Their answers might give you some insight into if this is the job for you. Here is what they had to say.
Brigit, PFO in 2015 on her time at Nels Bight, the skills she learned working there and how they have helped her in her current position as a grizzly bear naturalist:
“I worked in Cape Scott Provincial Park as a Park Operator with 43K in 2015. I continued my work with the company through the fall of 2015 in Strathcona Provincial Park as a Park Operator as well. Working as a Park Operator in such remote areas is a fantastic experience and has enriched my life both personally and professionally.
When I worked at Cape Scott I was introduced to the basics of wildlife tracking. Cape Scott has a large wolf population as well as resident black bears. In order to maintain a feeling of safety for park users, being aware of where apex predators are in the park as well as the temperament of certain individuals becomes imperative. This part of my job at Cape Scott has heavily informed the work I do now as a Grizzly Bear Naturalist. Through my work with 43K I was also introduced to the basics of tourism management in backcountry areas. If you are looking to do work with BC Parks or Parks Canada, this job is an excellent starting point. You build an understanding of what wild space management looks like from the ground up.
The job requires a lot of problem solving abilities as you are working in a heavily isolated environment. When I worked at Nels Bight I learned some basic electrical skills, how to fix small motors, how to use a chainsaw, and how to chop lots and lots of wood. These are all valuable life skills, but also have made me comfortable with fixing things on the fly in my current job. You are the professional representation of the park for users and at Nels Bight, you are often peoples first point of contact when they come into the park. Being able to answer a wide range of questions about the history of the park and the natural environment enriches users’ experiences. It also gives you the opportunity to dive deep into understanding the environment you are surrounded by.
My time at Nels was the beginning of some of my favourite hobbies; plant identification being one of them. This work I did at Nels Bight helped me to get positions in Vancouver as a wild edibles and mushroom guide which I continue to do seasonally in the spring and fall. I currently work as a Grizzly Bear Naturalist for Tide Rip Adventures based out of Telegraph Cove, BC. My experience with 43K enriched my resume and was a starting point in my journey to the adventure tourism industry. The job gave me skills and experience as well as great contacts to continue working in a part of the world that I love so much.”
Addison on a typical day working on the North Coast Trail (NCT) looks:
“There’s is no typical day on the NCT, every day is unique. From waking up on different beaches, to the yurt, each day diverges from the next. On average, each day starts at 8 am on a designated section of the trail where work is needed. These days consist of hiking on average between 8- 16 km per day. We usually work around 6 hours cleaning debris and maintaining the trail. This could include painting, bear cache cleaning and pit toilet stocking. For the most part, being a PFO is being a steward of the trail. From describing destinations, water locations, points of interest and animals sightings to sharing stories around the campfire and soaking in the majesty of the place. Be prepared for sudden weather changes and enjoy every ounce of the sun that breaks through the fog. The staff and training will familiarize you with ecological and sociological information about each plant and beach. Along with safety training and proper call in and radio practices. Every shift will have its challenges and difficulties but in the end, you will have left your mark on this place and this place will most definitely leave its mark on you.”
Claire on a typical day on the Forbidden Plateau:
“I followed a daily routine so each day was a little different but followed the same idea – wake up (coffee:)) breakfast etc. Then, I would hike to one of the campsites completing tasks to maintain the trail along the way. I would check outhouses and campsites and talk to campers (soooo much chatting with people on the plateau!)…Eat lunch, continue hiking along my route that day…Completing items on the work plan…Haha it doesn’t sound very exciting on paper here but the hiking is so beautiful and the work is generally pretty fun, except painting outhouses. That was not my jam at all!”
Frank and Ross on what makes the positions so great:
“The most unique thing about the position for me wasn’t in any single moment. It was the daily experience of meeting people from around the world, also in love with the natural world. Over my time in the park I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I met people who have inspired me to adventure, work and grow. If I hadn’t been stationed in the parks all summer, I would have missed many opportunities to meet the amazing people and animals that make the wilderness such a special place.” -Frank
“The best part of the job is definitely where you get to work and live. SO AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL!”- Ross
Danielle on the best part of living out at Nels Bight Cabin:
“The great thing about living in the cabin is you really get close to the people you are working with. I had lots of fun nights playing crib, jamming out to music by the fire, and general silliness. My most memorable experience as a PFO at Nels though, was the wildlife sightings. Osprey, bear, deer, and more, all right in front of the cabin!”
If you’ve gotten this far and still want to apply- I will leave you with some advice from the past year’s PFOs. PFOs have the opportunity to fly in one 70 litre tote at the beginning of the season (minus Elk River-prewarning!), which obviously when packing for an entire season is not a lot. Here is their recommendations on the one item you absolutely MUST make space for:
“A pair if binoculars”
“A FISHING ROD! And plenty of jigs and spinners, buzzbombs work best with a 20lb test.”
“A good book.”
“Spices! …and anything to spruce up your meals.”
“Something comfy to wear that clearly isn’t your uniform so people know your off duty and you can be comfortable”
We hope that hearing about the experiences of our past staff have inspired lots of you to apply! It’s always a pleasure to put together next year’s team. We look forward to seeing a lot of smiling faces on the trails again this summer!
For full job description and application details, please visit our Facebook page post.