Editorial: On becoming a Geopark

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

As I write this, the town is getting ready for its thirtieth…whateveryouwanttocallit party.

If I go to the window, I can see the barriers set up at Shop Easy. A town employee in a orange and yellow safety vest walks past carrying a broom to sweep up, one hopes, all the cigarette butts that are collecting in the gutters (side note: as in other things, size doesn’t matter; throwng a butt on the ground is still littering. The town has even gone out and bought a half a dozen specially designed receptacles so you don’t have to go more than a few hundred feet out of your way, and still you throw it on the ground and then wonder why people treat you with the same lack of respect as you show the people of this town.)

Ahem. Public works (as I was saying) is hard at work getting the town ready for this party, which starts in a few hours.

At the same time, the Geopark Committee is busy, too, as the delegates from the Global Geopark Network have arrived and are in town even as we speak.

There are a lot of people pinning a lot of hope on this proposal, and a few that are even starting to look to it as the possible salvation of town.

To be fair, most of the people on the Geopark committee don’t believe that. While it is exciting, and possibly game-changing, it is certainly not the salvation of Tumbler Ridge.

And that’s okay. Because while it is not the last step that Tumbler Ridge needs to take to free itself from the chains of being a one-industry town, nor is it the first, it is an important step nonetheless.

In the last thirty years, Tumbler Ridge has suffered at times from being too static. Too unchanging. We are a Coal Mining Town. Until there are no coal mines. And then what? Over the last decade, many people in town have struggled with this very question. What is Tumbler Ridge without coal mining?

The obvious answer back when the mines closed was gateway to Monkman Park and Kinsueo Falls.

Kinuseo Falls certainly are impressive, and they are one of the biggest tourism draw to the town. And yes, something needs to be done about the road.

But as time went on, that anwer expanded. It became more nuanced. We weren’t home to just Kinuseo, we were home to dozens of waterfalls: the Cascades, Red Deer, Bergeron, Quality. Even Flatbed.

And suddenly there was a certain group of people, people who loved waterfalls, people who wanted to visit as many waterfalls as they could, who looked at Tumbler Ridge as a place to go.

Another step, both literally and figuratively happened in 2000. Or rather, it happened a long time ago, but was discovered in 2000, and suddenly dino fever struck Tumbler Ridge.

Since then, thousands of people have come to Tumbler Ridge to visit the museum, to see the tracks in situ or to go and see if they could find their own trackways.

And slowly, Tumbler Ridge is developing a tourism industry. It might not look like much now, but it’s growing, and these things have a way of sneaking up on you.

Consider oil and gas. Hands up how many of you think that Tumbler Ridge’s economy is built on oil and gas? Okay, put your hands down, I can’t actually see you. And it’s not. There’s only a handful of people in town who are directly employed in the Oil and Gas industry (hi, Tim! Wave wave!), but the town still benefits from it being here. Not only from taxes  (which are getting close to half of what the town brings in from the mines) but those oil and gas workers need someplace to stay. Someplace to eat. Someplace to fill up their work trucks.

In fact, one could almost argue that the oil and gas industry around Tumbler Ridge is an awful lot like the tourism industry.

One of the weaknesses of the tourism industry in Tumbler Ridge so far is that it has attracted DIYers: people who brought their jetboats and went up or down the Murray. People who brought their ATVs and stayed out at Red Deer. But if Tumbler Ridge is declared a Geopark, it will start to attract tourist from China, from Europe, people who will need to stay here, because they don’t have their own trailer. People who will want people to guide them out to see the sites.

So now we wait for the announcement in fall as to whether Tumbler Ridge’s application was successful. Here’s hoping.

But even if it isn’t, the process of preparing the proposal has allowed us a town to identify even more of what makes us unique and therefore desirous to tourists.