FOW Board of Directors: Vern Fish-President, Douglass Blount-Vice President, John Holmes-Secretary/Treasurer, Dave McTeague, Mary Jean Blaisdell, Amy Funk, Ken Babinchak, Tetcy DeBoer, Ray Tallent, Shawn Bell, Randy Trudeau, Ian Curran, Victoria Steeves & Maurice Poulin (new!). We have one open position. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested. (Please join one of our committees too.)
Vern Fish, President
Vern is the former Executive Director of the Black Hawk County Conservation Board in Waterloo, Iowa. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Board and the Conservation Corps of Iowa/Minnesota. He is the president of the Black Hawk Creek Water & Soil Coalition and the Friends of Wabakimi Provincial Park. As an advocate for clean water, he also serves as the co-chair of the Cedar River Watershed Coalition and as an assistant commissioner for the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District. A passionate paddler he has run wild rivers from the Mexican border to Hudson Bay and north to the Arctic Circle.
Douglass Blount, Vice-President
A 1957 Quetico trip with his father introduced Doug to wilderness canoeing. He got back into serious wilderness canoeing in the 1999 with another Quetico trip with his son. Wilderness tripping became a passion which now includes 16 weeks with "Uncle" Phil and The Wabakimi Project. As a trip leader in 2008, his group made a west-to-east crossing of Wabakimi Park from Davies Lake to the Ogoki Resevoir. In 1969, upon completion of a 4-year stint in the US Navy serving on a destroyer and a net layer, he began a real estate career in which he is still active, operating a small brokerage firm. He is an avid skier, hot air balloon pilot and sailor.
John is a Mechanical Engineer from Waterloo, Ontario who has done many canoe trips in Northern and Northwestern Ontario parks, including 28 weeks on The Wabakimi Project trips. An avid hiker, he and his wife have trekked in South America, Europe, Africa, Iceland, Greenland, the Canadian Rockies and New Zealand. John designs and builds bicycle frames in his spare time and is a keen road and MTB cyclist. Proper trip planning and safety, along with a good balance between trail work and fishing, photography, or relaxation time are a part of John's trips.
Board Chair, Membership,
Dave is a former Oregon State Representative and retired small state agency administrator (chiropractic licensing board). Born in Minneapolis, he canoed the BWCA in his youth and many times since; and has paddled in Quetico, Woodland Caribou and British Columbia. He did four trips with the Wabakimi Project and then two more Wabakimi trips in 2019. As a legislator and conservation activist Dave has worked on fishery and habitat restoration issues and is keenly interested in the preservation of the wildlife and beauty of the boreal forest. He lives in Milwaukie, Oregon with his wife Naomi and chronicles his canoe adventures on his Oregon Dave YouTube page.
Shawn is a lawyer who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Most of his time in a canoe is spent fishing the lakes between Thunder Bay and Armstrong. He has taken the train into Wabakimi a couple of times and cannot think of any sound more beautiful than the train rumbling away down the tracks. This past fall he woke up to the first snow of the year while midway through an October canoe trip in Quetico. He now thinks September might be a better time for a trip.
Ian is based in the Rockies around Canmore, Alberta. An ACMG Ski Guide and Hiking guide, he takes guests on adventures into the mountains of Western Canada. Ian is also an Avalanche Forecaster for Banff Sunshine Village resort.
Ian grew up in Toronto, Ontario from where he sought out wild places accessed by the waterways of the Precambrian Shield. After completing a Forest Conservation (B.Sc.) at the University of Toronto, Ian moved west to continue studying and working in the Forest Biology and Management field.
Ian continues to seek out the wildest places on the landscape, whether on high mountain peaks or weeks from a road down a waterway in the boreal forest. Between travels through Canada’s abundant wilderness, Ian seeks to promote conservation of wildlife and responsible management of the boreal forest habitat.
Victoria lives in the Rocky Mountains of Canmore, Alberta. In recent years she has worked in a variety of remote locations around Canada. Victoria has been doing everything from hut custodian for the Alpine Club of Canada, massage therapist for Canadian Mountain Holidays, is a certified ACMG rock climbing instructor, and is working towards becoming a polar bear guide for Churchill Wild. She is pursuing further education with the dream of working in wildlife biology and conservation.
Victoria’s passion for adventure into remote wilderness has been one of her biggest drives in life. After experiencing Quetico for the first time with her partner, she realized that the next step was to follow the maps and venture deeper into the waterways of Ontario. Her interest to explore the far reaches of areas, like Wabakimi, inspires her desire to protect these wild landscapes and to share their beauty with others.
Tetcy De Boer grew up in PEI and currently lives in Strathroy, Ontario (Canada). She works at her local community credit union and loves getting out on the water as often as she can. One of her first canoe trips was with the Wabakimi Project in the area of Granite Lake and she was hooked. She has spent the last 10 years tripping in various Provincial Parks including Algonquin, the Kawartha Highlands, The French River, and her favorite, Killarney. She enjoys exploring local breweries, conservation areas and watersheds and has paddled long lengths of the Thames, Sydenham, Grand, Ausable and Saugeen Rivers with her husband Ray. She loves the paddling community and culture, and attending Canoecopia! Find me on Instagram: tetcyd
Mary Jean Blaisdell,
Mary Jean Blaisdell lives in Independence, Iowa. She is a retired elementary principal who loves wilderness paddling and camping. As a principal, she did annual presentations to young students about her trips in order to encourage them to seek outdoor activities and the wilderness. She currently serves on her local Buchanan County Conservation Board. She has sea kayaked with a group to the Apostle Islands, gone on some local river paddling outings with others, has been on over 15 trips to the BW/Quetico areas, participated on 3 Wabakimi Project trips and has done 3 solo trips to the Boundary Waters.
Amy Funk teaches Mental Health Nursing and Community Health Nursing at Illinois Wesleyan University. She loves to canoe, solo hike, geocache, camp, and travel internationally. A wanderer at heart, she prefers living out of a pack or a suitcase. She self-studies on the topic of survival skills. Some of her favorite places to explore are rural Illinois, the Pacific Northwest, Wabakimi, Banff, Kauai, and the Sonoran Desert. She is on several committees devoted to conservation, preservation of land, social justice and health care for the homeless.
Ken Babinchak is a happily retired school teacher. He has been canoeing for 29 summers. Ken participated in fifteen Wabakimi Project trips, six as a trip leader. He has extensive knowledge of The Wabakimi Area having covered over 475 kms of routes from the western reaches of Savant Lake, across the Albany River to the eastern edge at Abazotikichuan Lake and south to the Vale Lake area, as well as trips in the park interior. He tters, manages the FOW Facebook page and will be co-managing the FOW webpage as the Communications Director. He lives in Toronto with his wife Elaine and canoe buddy Labrador retriever, Sherman.
Ray Tallent, Conservation
Ray manages a university greenhouse and teaches botany courses in Iowa City, Iowa. He has canoe-tripped in the Boundary Waters and Quetico since he was a teenager. Since meeting “Uncle Phil” Cotton in 2011 he has served on twelve weeks of Wabakimi Project trips. In 2018, he was able to join Vern Fish on a farther north trip to Nueltin Lake and the Thlewiaza River. All these experiences have served to foster a love for Canada’s boreal country and, of course, always the desire to paddle new waters.
Randy lives in London Ontario. He is a retired high school science teacher. His interest in the outdoors began during his ‘Scouting Days’ as a youth. This interest was rekindled when he became a parent. He is proud to say that annual family canoe trips encouraged his children to appreciate our pristine landscapes. Mike, who lives in Calgary, spends his weekends hiking and fly fishing in the alpine valleys of the Rockies. Niki has been involved with a variety of polar experiences, and is currently guiding adventure cruises in Antarctica. Now, I share their outdoor activities!
He completed a trip along the West Coast Trail with Niki and recently hiked the Chilkoot Trail with Mike. His other interest - cycling - has more recently taken precedence. In his retirement, he has cycled Southern Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, B.C., and Oregon. His most memorable tours were a Cross Canada Ride in 2010 and a ride from Whitehorse, Yukon to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT in 2018. "It was amazing pitching my tent beside the Arctic Ocean."
He spent three consecutive summers working with the Wabakimi Project crews. He is excited to join 'The Friends of Wabakimi' team. Wabakimi Provincial Park is not well known in Southwestern Ontario. "Serving on the FOW board will give me the opportunity to make Ontarians more aware of this Natural Heritage gem."
Maurice is originally from Hamilton, Ontario where at an early age he became intrigued by the forest, rivers and wild places. He soon outgrew his home community. At the age of 16 began traveling and working throughout Canada with an emphasis on adventure through whitewater kayaking and canoe tripping. He eventually settled into Thunder Bay, NW Ontario. He returned to school and earned degrees in Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism, History, Political Science and Education at Lakehead University.
Maurice has been a lifelong advocate for social justice, the protection of waterways, wetlands, farmlands, parks, sustainable forestry & mining practices, public access to crown land and paddlers access to rivers and lakes. As a lifelong canoeist, no other place has left him with such a lasting impression as the Wabakimi area. He looks forward to working collectively with others to make this an exceptional destination for wilderness recreation activities for the benefit of all visitors. This work is important and necessary. There is a balance to be taken between conservation, sustainability, protection of habitat and species along with the marketing and promoting of this vast wilderness with others to enjoy safely and responsibly.