Trent Ernst, Editor
The Global Geopark program has always been supported by UNESCO, but last week, the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark joined 119 other Geoparks in becoming, officially, a UNESCO Global Geopark.
The announcement comes after the 195 Member States of UNESCO voted positively to create the UNESCO Global Geopark label on November 17.
According to UNESCO, Geoparks are unified areas with geological heritage of international significance. “UNESCO Global Geoparks use that heritage to promote awareness of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on,” says the Geopark website. “Many UNESCO Global Geoparks promote awareness of geological hazards, including volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis and many help prepare disaster mitigation strategies among local communities. UNESCO Global Geoparks hold records of past climate change and are educators on current climate change as well as adopting a best practise approach to utilising renewable energy and employing the best standards of ‘green tourism.’”
UNESCO Global Geoparks join World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves as an official UNESCO program under this formalization of the relationship between UNESCO and the Global Geoparks.
For Canada, it means two Geoparks—Tumbler Ridge and Stonehammer in New Brunswick—will be recognized as UNESCO Global Geopark sites.
Tumbler Ridge was designated a Global Geopark in September of 2014, and the opening weekend for the Geopark was held earlier this year, joining Stonehammer as one of two Geoparks in North America. Stonehammer got the designation back in 2010.
While the word ‘park’ brings to mind provincial and national parks, with their restrictions on certain activities like ATVing and snowmobiling, a Geopark would create increased recreation opportunities, such as better maintained and signed ATV trails, or tours to remote sites of scenic or geological significance. UNESCO Global Geoparks are not a legislative designation though the key heritage sites within a UNESCO Global Geopark should be protected under local, regional or national legislation as appropriate.
The Tumbler Ridge Geopark covers 7,722 square kilometers, from Gwillim Lake in the North to Monkman Park in the South. The area has a varied geology, topography, scenery and human history, and has been catapulted to fame by the fantastic paleontological discoveries of the past decade.