Community-to-community forum discusses Global Geopark proposal

Global Geopark status for Wells Gray Park and area has support from most North Thompson communities

Tourism consultant Jennifer Houiellebecq

Tourism consultant Jennifer Houiellebecq

Getting Global Geopark status for Wells Gray Park and area seems to have support from most North Thompson communities.

However, where the Geopark’s boundaries should be and what kind of organization should handle the application are still unclear. Even its name is not yet settled.

That appeared to be the essence of a presentation by tourism consultant Jennifer Houiellebecq to a community-to-community forum held in Clearwater on Jan. 29.

A feasibility study has been completed, she reported, and the proposal is now identified as an aspiring geopark on the Canadian Global Geoparks Network website.

It is important to avoid getting into a resource industry versus conservation perspective, she felt.

“We have to see this as a project that works for everyone,” Houiellebecq said.

Possible partners would include First Nations, provincial ministries, local governments, Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, resource industries and educational institutions – especially Thompson Rivers University.

Simpcw First Nation has been at the table from the start, she noted.

The original proposal was for the volcanoes of Wells Gray Park and area. That was expanded to include most of the North Thompson Valley. Now Houiellebecq wondered if it shouldn’t include Kamloops.

More geo-sites need to be identified, she said, whether natural or cultural.

Cost of developing an application would be about $90,000, plus another $200,000 per year to operate the Geopark.

This would not need to be new money, she said. Instead, it could be found by re-purposing money in existing budgets.

Getting Geopark status would result in at least a two to four per cent annual increase in tourism, she said, adding that was a conservative estimate.

On a suggestion from Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine, the forum decided to seek a meeting with MLA Terry Lake to discuss the project further.