Public input sought on Geopark proposal for North Thompson

Thompson-Nicola Regional District board of directors has approved a public assent process

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District board of directors has approved a public assent process to determine if there is sufficient public support for establishment of a Global Geopark designation for the North Thompson corridor.

The public assent process likely will involve a petition in which, if 10 per cent of the eligible voters in the designated area say they are against the Geopark proposal, it will not go ahead, explained Carol Schaffer, TNRD director for Wells Gray Country (Area A).

The designated area would include Wells Gray Country (Area A), Thompson Headwaters (Area B), Lower North Thompson (Area O), District of Clearwater and District of Barriere.

Possibly Valemount and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George will be invited to participate at a later date, Schaffer said, but for now just the North Thompson Valley is involved.

A recommendation to go forward with the Geopark proposal was made during a meeting of North Thompson Valley officials held in early April.

That recommendation was approved by the TNRD board during a meeting held Thursday, April 20.

Proponents anticipate that a Global Geopark designation would raise the international profile of the area’s unique landforms and geological significance.

This is expected, in turn, to strengthen the existing tourism industry and overall economic viability of individual communities within the North Thompson.

The TNRD board’s decision to go with a public assent process was made during the same meeting as a presentation by Tom Dickinson and Catherine Hickson of Wells Gray Wilderness Society (WGWS).

The society seeks to include Wells Gray Provincial Park on Canada’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The tentative list is the first step to securing UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the Park. The board agreed to write a letter of support for the WGWS.

Some proponents see the Geopark designation as a step towards full World Heritage Site status. However, the two proposals are separate, Schaffer said.

The Geopark designation would be centered on the North Thompson Valley while the World Heritage proposal is centered on Wells Gray Park.

According to Wikipedia, a Geopark is a unified area that advances the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way, and promotes the economic well-being of the people who live there. The Global Geoparks Network is supported by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area that has been officially recognized by the United Nations, specifically by UNESCO. Examples include the Taj Mahal in India and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.