On March 12 a delegation from the Peace Region travelled to Victoria to make a special presentation to the B.C. Liberal Caucus on the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation and Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC), as well as the Tumbler Ridge Aspiring Geopark (TRAG).
The focus of the presentation was the importance of these initiatives from a heritage perspective as well as for the economic diversification that may result for the region. It was not a funding request, although funding issues did receive attention. Instead, it was an initial information session with the aim of informing MLAs of the global importance of the work being done in Tumbler Ridge and the region, and trying to work out how best to do justice to this priceless treasure for the province.
The delegation gave a twenty-minute slide presentation explaining the history of these projects, and mentioning how the PRPRC has become the centre of excellence in the province for vertebrate palaeontology, and how highly it is now regarded by international scientists. The possibility of the Tumbler Ridge Aspiring Geopark being admitted to the Global Geoparks Network, supported by UNESCO, was discussed, and the huge implications this could have for tourism.
After the slide presentation, questions were addressed by the MLAs to the other members of the delegation: Karen Goodings, Chairperson of the Peace River Regional District, Mayor Darwin Wren, Councillor Rob Mackay, and Museum Curator Rich McCrea. Judging by the number of pertinent, enthusiastic questions, there is a great amount of interest, and the significance of this event cannot be underestimated.
“The Regional District loves this project,” said Karen Goodings during the meeting. “Tumbler Ridge is on the cusp.” Mayor Wren was able to explain the significant support the District of Tumbler Ridge has provided over the past decade, and how the museum project already helped the town survive once when the mines closed in 2001.
The presentation was made possible through the hard work and support of MLA Mike Bernier, along with Melissa Nowakowski who does Outreach for the Caucus. Bernier was able to introduce discussion on the Fossil Management Framework and the outstanding record of co-operation between regional industry and the museum, proposed Geopark, and the palaeontologists. Already there is talk of a possible visit by a group of MLAs to the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery in the summer.
Attention shifts to the Geopark application. The Global Geoparks Network has indicated that the submission from our Steering Committee met all criteria, and that an international site visit can be anticipated here in the summer. If this visit is satisfactory, announcement of Global Geopark designation could potentially follow as early as September, at the international Geoparks conference in Stonehammer, New Brunswick. That would make the Tumbler Ridge Adventure Geopark the second Global Geopark in North America, and the first in the west.
Each MLA received a copy of the TRAG book trilogy on the Tumbler Ridge scenery, fossils and human history. Mayor Wren was then able to present Mr Bernier with two replicas of a Tumbler Ridge theropod dinosaur footprint, one of which now adorns a wall in the office of the Premier, Christy Clark.
I was left with a feeling that Tumbler Ridge and the Peace Region are on the verge of greatness, and that the twelve years of dedication and support from so many volunteers, elected representatives and scientists will be amply rewarded. These are exciting times indeed to be living in such a special, previously under-appreciated part of BC and the planet!