By Craig Baird
Dr. Oliver Hart was a unique and well-respected man in the Gull Lake area from the first moment when he arrived to work as the town’s dentist in 1919.
Born in Ontario on Dec. 7, 1886, he completed high school in Barrie and went to dental college in Toronto. He first started practicing in Port Arthur before coming to Gull Lake to work with Dr. Kern. In 1920, he set up his own dental practice.
He was an avid hunter and naturalist who enjoyed spending time at Antelope Lake, exploring it and enjoying the nature around him. While out hunting one day, he found a lot next to Antelope Lake that had been abandoned by the previous homestead. He purchased it and began working on what would become a beautiful little spot on the prairie for him, and others, to enjoy.
He built a dam in 1923, and created a small reservoir of water from the springs that ran in the area. In 1924, the dam was washed away and another one was built in 1925, and then another in 1927. In May of 1929, what had become known as Hart’s Lake was stocked with rainbow trout and 12 beehives were installed into the trees near the park. Tommy Train would work as the caretaker of the lake and park for 11 years from 1926 to 1937, along with H. Sweeting, Bob Irwin, and Ford Gamble.
Dr. Hart would plant many trees in the park, and he was always happy to have the entire community to come out to his property to enjoy it. In 1931, he married a school teacher named Gladys Taylor.
The park would become the summer home of the Hart family and a cottage would be built there in 1946.
The Boy Scouts were also a common feature there, holding camp in the summer under the guidance of Mr. and Mrs. Sweeting.
Picnics were common, and during The Great Depression the park was often the only green spot on the entire prairie. Dr. Hart worked hard to have the area declared a game reserve, but was unable to do so.
Dr. Hart would enjoy the park for several years until he passed away in April of 1954 from cancer. Dr. Hart was widely remembered for charging low fees at his practice, helping pay for the education of many young men and women in town, and for buying many grocery hampers to give out during The Great Depression.
The park was sold to Jean Matheson in 1958, who then sold it in 1966 to Earl Hemsworth.
It was sold once more in 1972 to the Saskatchewan Regional Park board.
Eventually, what was once known as Hart’s Park would become the beautiful Antelope Lake Regional Park.