The best thing to happen to Tumbler Ridge since coal

Trent Ernst


It’s official.

The Tumbler Ridge Aspiring Geopark is now the Tumbler Ridge Geopark.

The announcement was made on Monday at the Geopark conference held at the Stonehammer Geopark in New Brunswick, North America’s first Geopark.

Tumbler Ridge Geopark is North America’s Second.

The news was announced on the Stonehammer Geopark website, with a simple “Welcome Tumbler Ridge Geopark to the Network.”

Charles Helm, who has been spearheading the push for the Geopark says the conference announcers were playing “the fool” in the presentation. “There were 11 new geoparks announced,” says Helm. “Bringing the total number of global geoparks to 111.

“After they announced five, they said they were halfway through. So we thought there would be ten. We kept on counting, six, seven, eight, nine ten. Each time the group would go up, and our name hadn’t been called.

“At ten, they stopped and didn’t say anything for a while. Finally, they said ‘Stonehammer, you’re not the only geopark in North America’. The crowd erupted. There were a lot of people there who were supporting us. It took us a long time to get up to the stage, because we were standing around and hugging each other. Finally they said, ‘hey you have to get up here.’”

Helm says that Mayor Wren had the quote of the evening. “He said ‘This is the best thing to happen to Tumbler Ridge since the discovery of coal.’”

Larry White showed up to a few days ahead of time, and presented to a bunch of school groups as a lead-up to the conference. He was one of three delegates who did three days of education work, two sessions a day, at local schools. The other two were from Finland and Norway.

What’s the next step for the Geopark? Helm laughs. “Well, I’m going to take a few more days here before coming home to recuperate. It’s also the beginning of a lot more work. I enjoy working on the Geopark so much, so it’s not really work.”

Helm says the new designation is not a magic bullet for Tumbler Ridge. “We have to be careful about raising expectation too much. It still takes time, but this will accelerate the process.”

Still, it’s an exciting time for the Geopark delegation and an exiting time for Tumbler Ridge. “It is hard to believe it is not even two years since Rich [McCrea] and Lisa [Buckley] returned from Turkmenistan and we first learned of the Geopark concept,” says Helm.

The new Geopark covers an area from the mountains of Monkman Provincial Park in the south to Gwillim Lake in the north, and from Mount Palsson in the west to the Alberta boundary in the east,  and will cover an area of 7,822 sq km, though plans are already underfoot to expand the area.