Answers to our most common questions can be found here.
What is a geopark?
A Geopark is a single, unified geographical area where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
This simply means that the area has a natural landscape that is good for education, and that also has significant scientific value. What makes a Geopark different from designations such as World Heritage Sites is that they have a commitment to benefit the local economy. This is done by bringing tourists into the region, creating jobs and increasing the need for new businesses. A Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using our earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing the human impacts of natural disasters. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today, the Geopark helps give local communities a sense of pride in the region and strengthens their identification with the area. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through geotourism, while showcasing and protecting examples of the geological richness of the area.
A network of Geoparks
One of the primary goals of the Temiskaming Rift Valley Aspiring Geopark is to become a fully accredited member of the international geopark community, which is overseen and marketed by UNESCO. At present, there are 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 38 countries. A webpage of each UNESCO Global Geopark is available, with detailed information on each site.
Once accredited, we would become part of the Global Geoparks Network (GGN). Prior to certification, a prospective member of the network is referred to as an "aspiring geopark". This is the stage that the Temiskaming Rift Valley Aspiring Geopark is currently at.
The GGN was founded in 2004 and is a dynamic network where members are committed to work together and exchange ideas of best practise and join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practises of a UNESCO Global Geopark. While the GGN as a whole comes together every two years, it functions through the operation of regional networks, such as the Canadian Geoparks Network (CGN).
A bottom-up approach
UNESCO Global Geoparks empower local communities and give them the opportunity to develop cohesive partnerships with the common goal of promoting the area’s significant geoheritage. UNESCO Global Geoparks are established through a bottom-up process involving all relevant local and regional stakeholders and authorities in the area (e.g. land owners, community groups, tourism providers, indigenous people, and local organizations). This process requires firm commitment by the local communities and the development of a comprehensive strategy that will meet all of the communities’ goals while showcasing and protecting the area’s geological heritage.
Is there any legal status attached to the label UNESCO Global Geopark?
No, “UNESCO Global Geopark” is not a legislative designation – though the defining geological heritage sites within a UNESCO Global Geopark must be protected under indigenous, local, regional or national legislation as appropriate. UNESCO Global Geopark status does not imply restrictions on any economic activity inside a UNESCO Global Geopark where that activity complies with indigenous, local, regional and/or national legislation.
Are there any new restrictions or constraints as a result of becoming a Geopark?
No. A Geopark is not a "park" in the typical North American sense of the word. It is not an area set aside from normal use for the
primary purposes of conservaton and protection.
A Geopark requires is no change in land tenure, nor any restrictions or curtailments to the normal legal activities that occur there. Geoparks are fully compatible with the commercial use of our natural resources.
There is an element of "protection" inherent in the concept of a Geopark. Some specific localized sites of significance within a Geopark may be protected from loss or degradation, particularly if they are an exemplary representative example of a larger geoheritage feature. For example, if a Geopark had a particular site with an excellent exposure of dinosaur bones, and there was value to leaving them intact in their original location rather than excavating them, measures might be taken to prevent erosion to the site that could result in loss of the fossils. A canopy might be constructed over them, and rules implemented to prevent people from walking on them. To use a more local example, attempts might be made to protect an old headframe of particular cultural significance, especially if it was the last remaining one of its type, or still in better condition than most of its era.
Is a Geopark about more than just geology?
Yes! While a UNESCO Global Geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, the purpose of a UNESCO Global Geopark is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between that geological heritage and all other aspects of the area's natural and cultural heritage.
It is about reconnecting human society at all levels to the planet we all call home and to celebrate how our planet and its 4,600 million year long history has shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies.
Some of the key partners in the Temiskaming Rift Valley Aspiring Geopark, such as the Hilliardton Marsh Research and Education Centre, are helping to educate people about the natural heritage of the rift valley, in this case the local bird life.
Once a UNESCO Global Geopark, always a UNESCO Global Geopark?
No, a UNESCO Global Geopark is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geopark is thoroughly re-examined during a revalidation process. As part of the revalidation process, the UNESCO Global Geopark under review has to prepare a progress report and a field mission will be undertaken by two evaluators to revalidate the quality of the UNESCO Global Geopark. If, on the basis of the field evaluation report, the UNESCO Global Geopark continues to fulfill the criteria the area will continue as a UNESCO Global Geopark for a further four-year period. If the area no longer fulfills the criteria, the management body will be informed to take appropriate steps within a two-year period. Should the UNESCO Global Geopark not fulfill the criteria within the two years, the area will lose its status as a UNESCO Global Geopark.