What is a Global Geopark? Should the communities from Sun Peaks to McBride seek to get that international status for this area?
Those were just a couple of the questions that a series of workshops held last week by the Global Geopark steering committee sought to answer.
The workshops were held in Chu Chua and Clearwater on March 3, in Valemount on March 4, and in McBride on March 5.
Although there are about 111 members of the Global Network of National Geoparks, only two are in North America.
Stonehammer, which is located in and around St. John, New Brunswick, has been a Geopark since 2010.
Tumbler Ridge, B.C., with its unique dinosaur fossils and tracks, was declared a Geopark last fall.
Getting Geopark status is seen as less expensive and more achievable than World Heritage status – and could be a step towards that designation.
The proposed Wells Gray Geopark would have the volcanoes of Wells Gray Park and area as its centrepiece.
Other features to be included would be natural rock bridges, waterfalls, inland rain forests, petroglyphs and so on.
Part of the process will be to identify geo-sites that should be included, said consultant Jennifer Houiellebecq.
Speaking at one of the workshops held in Clearwater, she noted that a Geopark would target a particular segment of the tourist market – a segment that would not be likely to defile sensitive sites.
Getting businesses to work together would be important, Houiellebecq said.
“It’s the beginning of a journey we hopefully can take together,” said Steve Nicol, another consultant. “Getting the application in place will require a lot of input from everybody.”
Upper Clearwater resident John Kurta said he had been surprised at first that the proposal includes Sun Peaks, but now likes the idea.
Including the resort municipality would bring in some talented people who are skilled at marketing, he felt.
Clearwater’s Jean Nelson wondered if getting Geopark status would help reverse BC Parks’ tendency to neglect Wells Gray Park.
Forty years ago the Ray Farm was an outstanding example of how pioneers could use their own efforts and ingenuity to achieve self-sufficiency in the wilderness. Now the farm is badly deteriorated.
“It infuriates me,” Nelson said.
Jennifer Houiellebecq said having Geopark status might help with getting funding for the park.
The Wells Gray North Thompson-Robson Valley global geopark project steering committee is made up of representatives from Simpcw First Nation, Barriere, Clearwater, Sun Peaks, Valemount, McBride, Thompson-Nicola and Fraser-Fort George regional districts, Tourism Wells Gray, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Thompson Rivers University.