The Global Geoparks Network

Larry White, TR Global Geopark


The recent articles in the paper have been designed to bring awareness to the residents of Tumbler Ridge of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark (TRGG) and what this designation means to our town. As previously written, the Geopark concept recognizes geological heritage and the profound influence it has on society, civilization and cultural diversity, as well as promoting sustainable tourism and other economic activities.

So far the success of the TRGG has been the result of dedicated volunteers and their vision for the future of Tumbler Ridge. But efforts here in Tumbler Ridge are not being done in isolation. It is the network of support that we receive from within Canada, as well as internationally, which adds to the success we are experiencing. It is the organizational infrastructure behind the Geoparks that is the glue that binds us together and is the subject for this article.

The concept of a Geopark was formally recognized and gained legitimacy in 2001 when United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was invited to support ad hoc efforts with Member States for the promotion of special geological features. At this point the Geopark idea was more a development on a national level rather than on the international stage. Then in 2004, at a meeting in UNESCO headquarters in Paris, three items were decided: establishment of the operational guidelines for National Geoparks; the establishment of a Global Geopark Network (GGN) and the foundation of a coordinating Office for the UNESCO network of Geoparks in Beijing.

The establishment of the GGN meant that there was a platform for cooperation and exchange among member states. Under the umbrella of UNESCO recognition to an international level was realized. There have been a number of regional Geopark networks set up such as the European, Asian and Japanese Geoparks and work for a North American network is ongoing. But it was the first item in the document that became very valuable to aspiring Geoparks. They now had a recognized national body that could help support and guide groups through the application process and advocate for them at the international level.

The Canadian National Committee for Geoparks (CNGC) was established in 2009 by the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES). Among other responsibilities, the function of the committee is to vet and support Geopark proposals prior to being sent to the GGN for review. It is this organization that we need to thank for our designation as they worked extremely hard to ensure we got it right.

I had the honour to have been asked to sit on the committee and the appointment is for a three-year term. We are working with 11 communities that have expressed an interest for Global Geopark recognition. The applications are all at different stages of development and the challenge and hope is to see that they all succeed.