Close Calls on High Walls and Other Tales from the Warden Service
William A. Waiser is a professor of history at the University of
Saskatchewan. He is the author of Saskatchewan’s Playground and Park
Prisoners. His book, Loyal Till Death: Indians and the North-West
Rebellion, was nominated for a 1997 Governor Genera
Park wardens are the Canadian national parks’ equivalent of the
Mountie. In fact, next to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the
national park warden service is one of the most recognized symbols of
authority in Canada. And the reputation is certainly deserved.
Established in 1909 to enforce national park fire and game regulations,
the warden service quickly outgrew its original function as “guardians
of the wild” to become closely identified with the general welfare of
the parks and the visiting public.
In Close Calls on High Walls, Mike Schintz offers an insider’s view
of the changing nature of the warden service through the lens of his own
four-decade career working for the National Parks Service. Raised in
southern Alberta, Schintz got his start at 19 as an assistant park
warden at Banff and soon had a posting as a back-country warden in the
Brazeau Valley district in Jasper in 1954. These patrols, normally by
horseback, helped make wardens a visible and vital aspect of the
national parks, particularly in Western Canada. And since they were
undertaken at all times of year under all kinds of conditions, there is
no shortage of good stories—which Schintz relates in an engaging
Schintz also talks about his work in national parks in other parts of
the country—in places such as Pukaskwa in northern Ontario and
Kejimkujik, Nova Scotia. These special places were not only relatively
new to the national parks system, but demanded different duties of the
wardens. Indeed, the days of patrolling parks by horseback were slowly
giving way to other responsibilities performed by men and women with
different training and skills.
There was a certain irony that Schintz’s last parks job was securing
horses for the Ya-Ha-Tinda federal horse ranch in Alberta.