There has been an immense amount of work leading up to this pivotal moment for the Discovery Aspiring Geopark Inc. (DAGI).
With the final site evaluation looming on July 21 for possible certification as a UNESCO Global Geopark, the importance of the visit by international judges next week is not lost on DAGI members as they reflect on the journey to this moment.
Board chair John Norman says this final step is a culmination which saw many stakeholders, non-profit organizations and others, working together with DAGI and investing in the future of the region.
“I think there’s definitely an almost-palpable excitement from many of those in-the-know now on the peninsula with this evaluation coming,” Norman told The Packet in an interview.
While the amount of work and potential challenges that go along with such an endeavour can be stressful, he says, they’re also confident in the merits of their site.
“This is it … (the evaluators’) opinions of our geological heritage, the assets themselves, how they tie to our cultural heritage, our general infrastructure, the education piece, the public awareness piece … the ongoing academic research — we feel strongly that we’re in a good position in each of these categories.”
Norman also says this recognition could be of the utmost importance for the future of the region, with many rural economic development opportunities for areas all over the proposed Geopark region. He calls the idea of this Geopark, “a great connector.”
“This is a big deal,” he says. “People are so excited because they know the brand recognition that UNESCO has. They know the socioeconomic evolution that happened on the Bonavista Peninsula as a result of our culture and arts and heritage tourism. So now with the overlay of Earth Sciences and blending them all together at a higher level with the UNESCO brand attached, it can’t do anything but improve the situation even more so for the peninsula.”
Plenty of work by plenty of contributors
Project manager Amanda McCallum has been at the forefront of the push to prepare for the site evaluation next week.
In an interview with The Packet, McCallum says they’ve had recent focus on community engagement sessions, emphasis on education programming in local schools, and finalizing preparations for the final five of the 10 sites themselves around the region, including interpretive panels.
They’ve also been able to establish their website, www.discoverygeopark.com.
Regarding the upcoming site evaluation itself, McCallum says it will be three full days on the ground for the judges, with an overview of a variety of different sites. Their visit is to validate the proposal for them to become a Geopark.
“It’s how it’s connected and intertwined together,” she explains. “The geology story is obviously important and we have to highlight the international significance of some of the sites, but it’s still really about how it interfaces and connects with people — people who live within the region.”
McCallum says stakeholders involved in the process, community leaders, non-profit organizations and businesses are integral to the collaboration.
Stakeholders involved in the proposal stage of the process have signed memorandums of understanding with DAGI, with a possible opportunity for mutual beneficial membership in the future — if successful as a UNESCO Geopark.
“It’s an opportunity for the businesses to showcase the sorts of experiences that they provide,” she says.
McCallum says the bulk of the recent work stems from the national site visit last November with recommendations of areas they needed to focus on.
“That’s been our priority areas.”
After the evaluation period concludes on Thursday, July 25, with the two UNESCO evaluators and national site observer, the final decision will be made in September.
Then, a public, worldwide announcement will be made in April of 2020 on whether all the work that has gone into to DAGI has resulted in the upper Bonavista Peninsula becoming the newest UNESCO Global Geopark.
THE LIST OF 10 SITES HIGHLIGHTED WITHIN THE DISCOVERY ASPIRING GEOPARK
• Trinity Gun Hill Trail;
• Port Union Boardwalk Fossil Site;
• Port Union Haootia;
• Elliston Root Cellars;
• Spillars Cove;
• Cape Bonavista Dungeon;
• King’s Cove Brook Point;
• Keels Devil’s Footprints;
• Tickle Cove Sea Arch.