Trent Ernst, Editor
The Province of BC is investing $3.6 billion in rural development this year, $200,000 of which is earmarked for projects in Tumbler Ridge.
MLA Mike Bernier made the announcement last week in Fort St. John as part of a comprehensive roll out of funding for the entire region, and reiterated it an event at the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery over the weekend.
$100,000 is for the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark Society to develop interpretive programs and improve signage and displays, and $100,000 is for the District of Tumbler Ridge to develop a range of strategic business retention and investment plans.
Geopark Manager Sarah Waters says they also have another $10,000 coming for project development. “About 70 percent of what we received will be development of educational materials for the Geopark,” says Waters. “We’ll develop web accessible lesson plans for educators, ranging from early childhood to adults, covering five distinct age groups, on five topics: biodiversity, palaeontology, outdoor recreation, cultural history and geology.”
The remaining funds, she says, is for marketing and public outreach. “There will be a concerted effort on public engagement and sharing ‘what is a Geopark’. In addition, we will be developing and installing two public interpretive pieces. These will go beyond the traditional interpretive panel, and may include sculpture or other types of art to bring the concepts of geology to the average person.”
Every four years each UNESCO Global Geopark is revalidated by UNESCO. One of the things they wanted to see Tumbler Ridge work on was education. Waters says over the next year, all her energy will be focused on making sure they are moving towards that revalidation. “Next year a team will be revalidating the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark,” she says. “That will include one Geopark director (like myself) from a different Geopark as well as a senior scientist from somewhere around the world. While we have an amazing list of assets when you look at our paleontological resources, our hiking trails and our range of other activities, there are a number of other concepts that Geoparks must address in our program. We really need to engage with the public and offer a variety of programming to get people thinking about this place, and to reconnect to the landscape.”
To those ends, says Water, the Geopark recently received strategic funding from the District of Tumbler Ridge to hire a Program Coordinator. “This will greatly increase our capacity to really interact with our local community as well as visitors that may come through Tumbler Ridge and the Geopark in general. There are 14 points from our initial Geopark assessment that need attention before revalidation, and between the BC Rural Dividend Fund program and the District of Tumbler Ridge Program Coordinator funding, I will be able to address the majority of the key points.”
The new part-time coordinator will be engaging with a variety of organizations, like the schools, the library, recreation groups such as the ATV and Snowmobile clubs, Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society (WNMS), Tumbler Ridge Children’s Center Society (TRCCS), and the Arts council, says Waters. “We will offer activities with those groups, as well as create material for sharing the Geopark story at events such as Canada Day and Grizfest. They may also take on the social media portion of the program. In addition to reaching out to local groups, they will offer events directly through our volunteers and direct operators, such as our free guided events like snowshoeing the Shipyard, the geological ski tour of Flatbed Creek and an introduction to basic cross country ski technique.”
In addition, the Program Coordinator will also connect with a new Geopark group at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School (TRSS), our Geo Ambassador Youth Program. “We’ve been able to connect a number of our secondary students directly with the Hateg UNESCO Global Geopark located in Romania,” says Waters. “I met their director while at the Geopark conference in England last September and was impressed by their involvement with high school students in their Geopark. The Hateg Geopark has a very different feel to our Geopark, but certainly no less impressive: they have pterodactyls with a seven metre wing span, their own species of small dinosaur, and dinosaur eggs still in the fossilized nest. They also border on the district of Transylvania, where Dracula’s castle is now an Airbnb. Beyond learning about another culture, the students have been able to see that what we have in Tumbler Ridge is special. We’ve also watched the Romanians go through nation wide struggle as their government has introduced laws which essentially allow for corruption and bribery. They’ve gone through a cultural revolution as recently as the 1990s. We truly are fortunate to live in Canada.”
Waters says the Geopark is a way to help diversify the local economy, and the funds they and the District of Tumbler Ridge have received will help the community achieve those ends.