NEWS

Ontario park wardens now sporting bullet-proof vests

07/12/2012 01:18 EDT | Updated 09/11/2012 05:12 EDT
Ontario Parks wardens have a new addition to their uniform this year — they must now wear bulletproof vests whenever they're patrolling park grounds.

A new province-wide policy stipulates that wardens wear the vests when they're in an "enforcement situation". The Ministry of Natural Resources said the policy changes aren’t attached to a specific incident. The vests are the product of upgrading safety measures across all parks.

The navy blue padding covers the chest and back and protects vital organs from weapons. Wearing one is just fine with Killarney Provincial Park superintendent Chuck Miller.

"I hope I don't have to use it … but I do want to go home at the end of the day,” he said.

After 38 years of working in Ontario Parks, Miller said he’s been involved in a violent situation only once.

"In one incident there was an OPP officer being assaulted,” he said. “There were park staff, as well as other OPP there, and we did have to arrest someone."

Enforcement officer Jeremy Pawson, who works at the same park as Miller, said the additional layer of protection will make hot days even warmer.

"We were given some instruction on how to keep cool,” he said. “Hydration is very important, [and] a moisture-wicking t-shirt style fabric also helps quite a bit."

Pawson said the wardens don't have to wear the vests all the time.

“On patrol in the campground like this, we're definitely going to have them on,” Pawson said. “If we're doing things say, like a ceremony or administrative duties behind our desks, we do have the option to take them off and get a little break.”

The cost to outfit Ontario’s 450 park wardens with vests rings in at $255,000.

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