The tension built towards the end of the sixth International UNESCO Conference on Geoparks held at Stonehammer Global Geopark in New Brunswick last September. The announcement of eleven new Global Geoparks in the world was made at the end of a gala dinner on the last night of the conference and the last one announced was Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark.
The members of the Canadian National Committee for Geoparks were just as excited as the Tumbler Ridge delegation on that particular September evening because it meant a doubling of the number of Canadian Geoparks to two.
This has also doubled the size of the community of people operating geoparks in Canada and means that the country is gradually gaining more experienced people. It takes a lot of hard work and preparation to be ready to submit the formal application for Global Geopark status, but it is really only the beginning of what is a long journey to being a fully operational geopark.
The team in Tumbler Ridge has been doing a wonderful job of getting things going and it is clear that some much-needed financial support has been forthcoming. With coal production at a standstill for the moment, this is a great opportunity for the community to develop an alternative and complementary sustainable economy in tourism. This will be based on the magnificent endowment of geoheritage in the region, some of which is protected and exhibited in the Tumbler Ridge Museum.
Much more is available for inspection in the area surrounding town and further out in the back country. All these localities provide great opportunities for people to learn more about the community and what lies under its collective feet.
About ten other communities in Canada are in various stages of considering the prospect of applying for Global Geopark status. For some it is in the preliminary stages, but for at least two, one in Quebec and one in Newfoundland, the prospect of formal designation is within reach. It is the hope of the Canadian National Committee for Geoparks that there will be three or four Global Geoparks in Canada over the next couple of years.
As the community grows, the new aspiring geoparks will be calling on the experience and wisdom of the existing Global Geoparks. I know that the people of Tumbler Ridge will be key in assisting new aspiring geoparks in Canada to realize their dreams.
I take this opportunity to thank the community for its contribution to geoparks in Canada and wish you all the best in developing this new aspect of your local economy.
Godfrey Nowlan is the chair of the Canadian National Committee for Geoparks. He lives in Calgary.