Travel somewhere else in the world and clear views of beautiful sunsets might be much less abundant.
“I spent a lot of time outside and I never saw a single sunset. That was something I missed,” said Stephanie Moreau. “Portugal is beautiful but I think what we have here is even more amazing.”
Moreau, Tourism Development Officer at the Municipality of Cumberland County, attended Wednesday’s meeting of County Council at the Joggins Fossil Institute.
She was there to present a summary of her two-week visit to Vila Real, Portugal, where she attended the inaugural ‘International Summer University on Geoparks, Sustainable Development and Healthy Lifestyles.’
“Prior to this experience I never made the connection between geology and culture but once I had the classroom sessions, followed by the trips to the geoparks, it came together for me at that point. Our local geology dictates how we exist.”
There are 127 UNESCO Global Geoparks in the world. Portugal has four and Canada has two. One is the Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark near Saint John, N.B., where the Saint John River meets the Kennebecasis River. The other is the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark located in the Northern Rocky Mountains of B.C.
Moreau sees no reason Cumberland County can’t be designated a UNESCO Global Geopark.
“Today’s travelers are seeking a more meaningful experience. They want to live like a local, and they want that authentic experience that you can’t get anywhere else that’s unique to our area,” said Moreau. “People want what we already have here in Cumberland County. We don’t even necessarily have to create anything or build anything.”
Moreau says there are many experiences unique to Cumberland County.
“When people visit Cumberland they want to taste our local food, they want sip the local wine and beer, and if you can educate them on the process and how it’s made and even let them help you make it, then that’s even better.”
They might even want to rake blueberries.
“They’ll pay to go clam digging on our sand flats and have a clam bake on the beach. They’ll pay to go lobster fishing with a local fisherman or even pay to rake blueberries,” said Moreau. “I spent a few summers raking blueberries I wouldn’t pay to do it but these are unique local experiences that people are craving for more than ever.”
There is currently a geopark committee in Cumberland that is ready to submit their application to UNESCO.
“I’m looking forward to working with our aspiring geopark here in Fundy and assist them in achieving that designation to ensure it benefits our community as much as possible.”
And what comes with the UNESCO Geopark designation?
“The prestige and the status associated with the UNESCO brand. The brand is a highly respected, highly recognized brand worldwide,” said Moreau. “The designation also suggests a certain level of quality exists. It draws a particular visitor, and it’s that visitor and traveler we want to bring here to Cumberland County.”
And the designation can create a more robust, people-focused economy.
“ Geoparks are about people. They create jobs in the local communities, they reinvigorate existing businesses, they spark creativity and encourage innovation,” said Moreau. “Geoparks are all-inclusive. You cannot have a UNESCO Global Geopark without people.”