Despite, or maybe because of, the global pandemic, a record number of NWT campers enjoyed NWT Parks further afield last summer including the Dehcho Region’s Blackstone Territorial Park (Blackstone).
Visitors to Blackstone were welcomed with the sweeping views and breathtaking sunsets over the Nahanni Mountains – and by Mike Gonet, recipient of the 2020 NWT Parks Operator of the Year award.
Staff from ITI’s Dehcho Regional Office in Fort Simpson travelled to Fort Liard In late February to present the award to the friendly park operator and to extend a hearty congratulations for a job well done.
ITI: Tell us about yourself. How did you come to be a Park Operator?
Mike: Originally, I’m from Whitehorse, Yukon. I’ve been living here in Fort Liard for the past 25 years. In the Yukon, I owned my own contracting and landscaping business. When I moved to Fort Liard, I worked for many years as a heavy equipment operator then decided to open my own contracting business. After being awarded a few contracts at Blackstone to fix up the trails and bridge and such, I took the contract as Park Operator. In total, I’ve been working out at Blackstone Territorial Park for three summers.
I really enjoy what I do. I mean where else can I get paid to go camping? In the mornings I wake up, make coffee and then look outside to a beautiful view and wait for the guests to arrive.
We’re always doing something and I am always keeping busy: giving everything a good wipe down, cut the lawn, get firewood, keeping the trails clean.
ITI: So what is your formula for award-winning hospitality?
Mike: I’m just doing my job and trying to make Blackstone into a nice place to visit. When I travel, I remember and return to the nicest and cleanest campgrounds and that’s what I’m trying to do at Blackstone.
I want visitors to remember us and tell their friends “You gotta stop there, it’s so beautiful.” It is beautiful at Blackstone, the mountains and the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular; it’s very enjoyable to work here. I can’t explain or stress enough how beautiful it is.
ITI: Visitors to Blackstone gave you wonderful and glowing reviews…
Mike: I was overwhelmed and didn’t know that there was such an award. I’m I really don’t know what they would say that about me. I’m just a social guy and I like to talk with people. That’s wonderful that they say such nice things. I hope to see them all again next camping season (bring your friends!)
ITI is currently working with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer to finalize plans for the use of NWT parks facilities this summer. The Department operates and maintains a system of 35 parks.
It plans to invest $6.7 million this summer across all regions to enhance and maintain parks infrastructure. These investments are a key economic stimulus for NWT businesses, who are likely to secure most of the contracts for building and materials and supports the GNWT’s mandate to increase economic diversification while also contributing to increased employment in smaller communities.