MH: How did the Warden Service change over the years? 2448:

Bob: As long as I could remember, people were always trying to be in charge of different things, like Mountain Rescue, Wildlife Management, (the) boss over Law Enforcement. When we all got hired and had our own districts, there were 23 permanent wardens throughout Jasper from the Chief Park Warden down. We all had law enforcement (powers); we could charge people for poaching, fishing or camping violations. Now they have only five or six who have permission to wear the uniforms and do law enforcement and there is very poor coverage. There is nobody in the backcountry, and that to me is one of the most important things to be protected. They seem to be pushing towards tourism more so than looking after the park. That’s my feeling anyway and I’ve seen so many changes and they are not all for the best. I’ve always thought, and so do a lot of the others, that you need some new things happening but don’t discount the old things because they can both work together.

In the early 1970s, they pulled us all in from the backcountry. It was something that came out of Regional Office in Calgary and Ottawa; they were pushing for centralization. Some of the things happening in the backcountry, too many people were riding around and not doing any of the work and relying on trail crew to do most of the trail work. People were out there for a holiday it seemed and you couldn’t do that, you had to take care of your district. In the Brazeau (district) I had 410 miles square and looked after 8 cabins, stocked in the winter for food. People weren’t reliable and then they were doing things and when the Chief Park Warden and Assistant Chief Park Warden did their patrols in the late fall, they saw how much was getting done, they weren’t fooling anybody. Some people just weren’t cut out to be out there.

Bob on boundary patrol heading to Devona from Roche Miette
Bob on boundary patrol heading to Devona from Roche Miette.

MH: What about the Warden Service was important to you? 3000:

Bob: They don’t have the people travelling the Jasper backcountry like they used to. In the 1970s Al Stendie and Brian Wallace were in the north and Bob Haney was on the Rocky (River district), and they had a lot of hiking pressure. Years of the hippie and lots of people travelling, over 500 hikers on the north boundary where I ended up with only 36 hikers and now they can’t travel because the trails aren’t kept open. Very few are travelling because of the condition of the trails. They cut out the trail crews a few years back and pulled everybody out of the bush and you have Patti Walker and her husband, Al, looking after both ends of the park and it’s too much for just two people. It’s sad to see that happen.

3154: The backcountry was my big thing because I enjoy horses and I have had some for a long time. In fact when I moved out here, I brought my last 2 horses with me. Ranger was 39 years old when he died and his full sister, Sis, was 36.

MH: Are there any legends or stories associated with the Warden Service that you can share? 3237:

Bob: I enjoyed the whole thing and of course in 1992, they were changing and they were trying to get autonomy in Jasper following Banff’s ordeal. They needed someone to go between the RCMP and the Warden Service to deal with Domestic Animal Control. We lost our Domestic Animal Control officer so they needed somebody to do that job and the Wardens were too busy with their side of it and the RCMP weren’t going to do it so they called me in and asked me if I’d take that job. I was at Pocahontas at the time with Rod Wallace, so I came in and accepted the job and I was the first and only Bylaw Enforcement Officer for Jasper National Park until they voted in autonomy and then I worked for 3 months with the Town until they could get someone else in. I had my 35 years in and didn’t want to continue dealing with people. Did Domestic Animal Control and parking violations for the Town of Jasper from 1992-2002. Also designed and had a new animal center built in the Government Compound in town.

MH: Is there anyone from the Service that stands out in your mind? 3520:

Bob: All the ones like Mac Elder was a real persuader to get me to hire on and Alfie Burstrom, Max Winkler, all the senior wardens and my ex-father in law, Norm Young, was great to all us newcomers; he took us under his wing. He was a prince. Mickey McGuire was a favourite of mine. He was a tough fellow and I enjoyed working under him. He was my first Chief Park Warden. I really loved Max and Julie (Winkler) and still keep in touch with Mac (Elder). He just turned 90 this year. Yup all those senior wardens, even the guys in Banff (Gord Rutherford, etc.) I had great respect for them all. So many I can’t name them all.

Bill Walburger, Alfie Burstom and Bob Barker 2009 at the Maligne Range, Jasper National Park
Bill Walburger, Alfie Burstom and Bob Barker 2009 at the Maligne Range, Jasper National Park

MH: Is there anything about the Warden Service, as you knew it, that you would like future generations to know? 3730:

Bob: I’d love to see and persuade the young people to keep fighting to preserve our national parks. Don’t let mining and logging in. Guess they’ll have to log now due to the pine beetle. Persuade the young people to keep national parks as ‘National Parks’; be respectful so it goes on for generations. Don’t want to see things given up. They are very important to everybody, all Canadians and park visitors. National Parks are all needed and don’t need to be chopping things up and giving up things all the time. Need to keep these areas protected. Wildlife just doesn’t have a place to live anymore with all the traffic. We are losing lots of stuff as it is without giving up.

MH: What made the Warden Service such a unique organization? 3920:

Bob: Fellows working together and the majority wanting to protect and keep parks. I think down deep everyone doesn’t want to see the parks disappear and we should be looking after them better than what we are. You go to other countries and parks is everything and that’s the way it should be here. Some people out here think we don’t need parks, and this and that, and that is foolish talk. We need to save some parts of our country.

MH: Do you have any lasting memories as a Warden? 4040:

Bob: I loved the Brazeau, hoping to go back there next summer. Just waiting to see what’s going to come up for the summer. I would go back to any part of the backcountry. Was up the Smokey (River) for a season when they couldn’t get anyone to go up there. I like the whole park of Jasper. It is unbelievable.

Bob Barker riding out of the Brazeau over Nigel Pass.  Riding Glag, leading Ranger
Bob Barker riding out of the Brazeau over Nigel Pass. Riding Glag, leading Ranger.

MH: Any other stories? 4130:

Bob: No just glad that my daughters were born in the backcountry. Honya was born at Snaring. Took them on a number of backpacking trips with me, and they still talk about their times with their dad out in the backcountry areas. I have two daughters, Cheryl and Honya and four grandsons; Sage just got married in and is living in Australia; Colten is a plumber in Jasper; and Honya has twin boys (19) living in Jasper and hoping to do ski instructing at Marmot (Neve and Josh).

MH: Do you ever miss being a Warden? 4308:

Bob: Yes I do. If things were different, I’d be back out there tomorrow.

MH: Do you have any photos of yourself as a warden that you would like to donate? Artifacts? 4330:

Bob: I have numerous pictures and will go through a few things and send some photos. I will write on the back what they are.

People used to say, “Aren’t you scared of wildlife out there and animals with a little infant like that? And I’d say “The only thing we were scared or nervous about are the two-legged ones wildlife took care of themselves.” All of my career I never had an incident with wildlife. I thank my Lord and savior for that.

MH: What year did you retire? 4648:

Bob: I retired in 2002.

MH: What do you enjoy doing in retirement? 4715:

Bob: I love where I am living. I have 32 acres, my horses and I love helping my neighbours. Somebody calls and asks if I can give them a hand, I usually go and do it. I really enjoy it out here. I couldn’t have my horses year round in Jasper so it’s kinda nice having my own place I always dreamed of having my own place and love it.

MH: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think I should know about the Warden Service? 4845:

Bob: I have really enjoyed the time spent with all those people and all the different ones that are still here. Frank and Colleen Coggins are an inspiration to me. I stop at Sundre and see them from time to time.

MH: Anyone else to interview?

Bob: Al Stendie. (Al Stendie was interviewed for Phase 8 by Mary Dalman).

MH: Any final comments?

Bob: Best years, the best life! Al and I and Gord Anderson discussed how we had the best years, got in and out at the best time. Too bad it’s gone the way it has. Just don’t have the farm boys to hire anymore…those are the ones who can look after themselves and the place. We didn’t hire on because of the money, we hired on because of the way of life. People aren’t happy unless they are making a big salary. We were content where we were. It was a way of life. It’s sad to see cabins not being used. They’ll never replace them for what they paid to build them. It’s kinda sad but they don’t have the same people anymore. Hoping to write a couple of books.

Bob Barker at the 2009 Warden Service Centennial Celebration
Bob Barker at the 2009 Warden Service Centennial Celebration
Addendum: I feel that parks are going the wrong direction and they have the wrong people in higher up management running the parks. That’s what’s turning the park around where they are not being managed properly. There are still people in Parks trying their best to run it but when you have people from Ottawa running the National Parks, i.e. Jasper, they have no clue of the park, history of the park and it’s a sad situation. That’s more than just my feelings, there are others that I have spoken to.

One thing, I have been involved with Jasper Heritage Rodeo and it’s been going since 1925 and we are dealing with a superintendent in Jasper who has no interest in horses or the backcountry, and has no knowledge of what’s gone on in the park over the years. When I first arrived in Jasper, there were over 400 head of horses used in the park between outfitters and PCA. Presently Jim (Chesser), the Barn Boss, has probably 26 head or horses where we used to have 70-80 head in Jasper. And the park can’t continue the way it’s going with the history of the backcountry and the people involved for over a hundred years, it’s kind of a kick in the face as far as I’m concerned. Some people say no but what did we police the park for to have it go to the way it is today. Just wanted to add that little bit. Last year was supposed to be the last year for the rodeo in Jasper because they don’t want to give us any area. The area we are sharing, off the Skytram. (The Jasper Skytram is the highest and longest aerial tramway located in Canada. It was built in 1964 and goes to a height of 2,277 metres above sea level. It is 6 kilometres from Jasper, Alberta, and crests The Whistlers Mountain. It is roughly 230 kilometres north of Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway.) Road, is ideal for where we are. Now they’ve shut down Whistler Campground to maintain it and are using our area for the construction crew when Marmot Meadows is a much better area. It’s sad and I’m hoping we can continue with the rodeo because it’s a real heritage event and draws lots’ of people. We seat 800 around the rodeo – for 4 days – most are visitors. If weather is cooperating, we have a sellout. It’s important to keep some heritage in our park. Jasper is the only park that has a rodeo.

(May 16, 2019 – it was announced that the Jasper Heritage Rodeo is permitted to continue for 5 more years (2019-2023).