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Moment of truth drawing near for proposed Cliffs of Fundy Aspiring Geopark

Evaluators from UNESCO will be in Cumberland and Colchester counties in late July to evaluate the proposed Cliffs of Fundy Aspiring Geopark as a potential UNESCO Global Geopark. If the evaluators from Greece and Spain like what they see a global geopark designation would come in spring 2020. Part of the geopark would include Partridge Island near Parrsboro. Tourism Nova Scotia photo
Evaluators from UNESCO will be in Cumberland and Colchester counties in late July to evaluate the proposed Cliffs of Fundy Aspiring Geopark as a potential UNESCO Global Geopark. If the evaluators from Greece and Spain like what they see a global geopark designation would come in spring 2020. Part of the geopark would include Partridge Island near Parrsboro. Tourism Nova Scotia photo - Contributed

Evaluators from UNESCO due in area in late July

PARRSBORO, N.S. —

John Calder can’t be helped for feeling a bit a déjà vu right now.

Just as was the case in the mid-2000s, when the Joggins Fossil Cliffs became Canada’s 15th UNESCO World Heritage Site, the senior geologist with Nova Scotia’s Lands and Forests Department is very excited with the fact the Cliffs of Fundy Aspiring Geopark will come under intense scrutiny from UNESCO in July.

“This is where it’s all on the line, the last four years of hard work and all the communities working together,” said Calder, who is also the vice-chairman of the Canadian Geoparks Network. “It’ll be thumbs-up or thumbs-down, based on this. There has been a lot of preparation involved, getting the communities onside and putting the application together with the documents and the maps.”

Calder said members of the committee behind the proposal “are pretty pumped” but also “healthily” nervous.

“We’re optimistic and we feel so strongly that we’ve done everything we possibly can to make it success. This is something that will be there for a very long time and draw people to the shore and make the most of the nature and the things we take for granted. Sometimes because we’re from here we don’t stand back and think about how it’s all tied together.”

UNESCO evaluators from Greece and Spain will be visiting the area for three days to complete their evaluation of the application for geopark status. The evaluation will be the final step toward UNESCO designation that will give the area’s geological heritage a global platform to mark the shoreline as a destination for adventure tourists.

A successful evaluation means a UNESCO Global Geopark designation for the area next spring, making it Nova Scotia’s first geopark.

“Right now, we’re all running around like a bunch of one-armed paperhangers making sure everything is up to snuff for the evaluation,” he said. “The application that was submitted to UNESCO last December is out for review across the world, but the real weighty judgment is by the two who are coming in July. It’s for all the marbles.”

For Calder it brings back memories of the Joggins campaign and the hours, weeks, months and years of preparation leading up to the evaluation of the fossil cliffs by UNESCO more than a decade ago.

“It’s very similar and I’ve thought of this many times,” he said. “For me, it’s making it hard for the evaluators to say no. It’s the same guiding principle as we used in Joggins. If I was detached from this I would say it’s a very strong case. There’s strong community support, the geology is fantastic, and the Mi’kmaq history and storylines are incredible, but you still have to think of all the what ifs. We just want to make sure we’ve covered all the angles. It’s not just about geology, it’s about how everyone in all the communities have pulled together from the tourist operators, to the schools and everybody is pitching in and pulling together.”

“This is our chance to bring people from all over the world to this great area. The geopark will create so much opportunity for businesses and tour providers in the region.”

The overall goal, he said, is long-term sustainable economic development in a rural part of Nova Scotia along the Parrsboro Shore from Apple River in Cumberland County to Debert in Colchester.

The initiatives has brought together numerous stakeholders from the Joggins Fossil Institute, Energy and Mines and community members as well as both the municipalities of Cumberland and Colchester.

Cumberland County councilor Don Fletcher is the chairman of the geopark society and Colchester Mayor Christine Blair is vice-chair.

“The upcoming evaluation is our one chance to showcase our natural rugged coastline, prove our place on the world stage and show off our ability to collaborate,” Fletcher said. “We will succeed.”

Anne Grabinsky, owner-operator of Nova Shores Kayaking Adventures in Advocate Harbour, has long supported the geopark for its potential to highlight the area to international tourists.

“This is our chance to bring people from all over the world to this great area. The geopark will create so much opportunity for businesses and tour providers in the region.”

A dozen sites in both counties will see developments to infrastructure, education programming and will be promoted to visitors with plans to expand the number of sites each year.

The project was further bolstered in April when Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey announced that Isle Haute, located off Advocate Harbour and included in Cliffs of Fundy’s list of geosites, is receiving Federal Wilderness Preserve designation.

Calder said everyone who visits the Fundy shore from Joggins on one end to Debert at the other comes away “Gob smacked” at the natural beauty and geology of the area.

“Everyone comes away saying ‘what an incredible place, we never knew.’ What we’re trying to do is have it so that people do know,” he said. “People are really interested in the geological story and it’s sort of my elevator pitch for the area. It’s magnificent.”

For more information, visit fundygeopark.ca .

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