New Manager for Newest Geopark

Trent Ernst, Editor

As the Tumbler Ridge Geopark closes in on its first year as a Geopark, the Tumbler Ridge Geopark Society (TRGGS) has hired a new Manager, Sarah Waters.

Waters brings 17 years of experience working as a consulting archaeologist and traditional use specialist. She says she applied for the position because it combines all of her passions in one place. She and husband Craig moved to Tumbler Ridge specifically because of the outdoor recreational opportunities the area offered. “We moved here for exactly the reason there is a Geopark. Once we moved here, then we started a business.”

Waters is the former president of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, sat on the board of the TR Museum and is on the executive for Tumbler Ridge Search and Rescue. Her former job as archaeologist meant that she got to spend much of her time out exploring the Tumbler Ridge area. “All of that will feed into this job,” she says. “I just love Tumbler Ridge, and am excited to share it with the world.”

Waters has been directly involved in several projects throughout the region including oil and gas, forestry and wind energy and has developed relationships in all industries and government agencies through her archaeology professional consulting and her position as Project Manager, Archaeologist, Tumbler Ridge Office Manager, Archaeology and Heritage Resources Division, and Amec Foster Wheeler for the last six years.

Waters has been in the position for the last week and is just getting her feet underneath her. It is a new job for a new organization, she says, so it’s going to take a little bit of work to get everything firing on all cylinders. Right now, she doesn’t even have an office. “Right now, I’m just sinking my teeth into the master plan and taking a look where we’re at.”

Her first priority, she says, will be to teach the town of Tumbler Ridge why a Geopark is such a big deal. “I really want the town of TR to own the Geopark,” she says. “I want everyone in town to know what a Geopark is and to know what it can do for this community, and to be as excited as I am. I think most people know that there’s a Geopark, but they don’t really know what that means. It’s important that the community knows what a Geopark is so that when visitors come, they can share it with them. But there’s also so many opportunities for small businesses, for learning in our schools…”

And after that? “The next step will be to build awareness outside our community; regionally, nationally and internationally.”
Waters is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking, rock and ice climbing, cross country skiing, the sport of triathlon, and adventure in general. She has travelled internationally throughout Europe, Asia and North America, and has experience speaking German, French and Spanish.

In a few years, the International Geopark Committee will be re-evaluating Tumbler Ridge. “Our volunteer committee has been working really hard on meeting the criteria: signage, interpretive brochures, etc. In the next two years, my focus will be on building more outreach programs, more research programs and working with museum and tour operators on guided tours, so we can build on the knowledge base.”

Destination BC, says Waters, have done a lot of research on who visits BC, as has the District, and the Geopark doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Most of the Geopark’s marketing efforts will align with the work these two organizations have already done. “We know that people who visit Tumbler Ridge are mostly over 40, independent travelers, looking for a cultural experience. We have the adventure, but to the outside traveler how do you share the cultural experience? Locals have built up their experience with potlucks and the like, but how do you expose that?”

One of her big efforts will be to work with local businesses to update their information on social media, and try to get the businesses to work together. That sort of information, she says, needs to be kept up to date. “Change is coming and people are starting to focus on that stuff. Having a person in this community whose sole role is to grow tourism and focus on that will be a benefit.”

Waters says one of the biggest challenges of her new position will be finding stable funding past the first couple of years. “What’s really exciting about this job is working with the board, which has an amazing breadth of experience,” she says. “We have people who have been involved in TR for decades. We have people who are currently involved in NBC Tourism. We have people from the chamber. We have scientists. It’s a really collaborative, experienced group to work with.”