You are here: Home > News & Events > Latest News

Group determined to get geopark label

Source: Published:Oct 15,2009

Bill Merrifield stands at Reversing Falls, an area he hopes will be designated a geopark.
The rock behind him was formed from two continents colliding.

The bid to make southern New Brunswick the first geopark in North America will really begin to rock at a meeting in the city later this month. Not just a collection of cool looking rocks and fossils, a geopark takes into account cultural and historical aspects.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the world body that designates such sites.

On Monday, an invitation-only reception is being held at the New Brunswick Museum's whale gallery.

Designed to explain what a geopark is, its value to the region and rally support, Godfrey Nowlan, interim chairman of the Canadian National Committee for Geoparks and the Geological Survey of Canada, and Jenna Boon, curator of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Joggins, N.S., will attend the evening. They will also tour the proposed sites earlier that day.

Called the Southern New Brunswick Geopark, 30 potential sites have been identified from Lepreau Falls to the petrified forest in Norton to the Fundy Trail and the Kingston Peninsula. But the centre of the park will be Reversing Falls.

Bill Merrifield is chairman of the committee that is putting together the bid.

"A lot of people don't realize that right underneath the Reversing Falls Bridge two continents came together and you can see it," he said.

Along with preserving the sites because of the UNESCO brand, he said, it will attract tourists from all over the world.

"It's a big deal," Merrifield said.

"It's not just a rock thing, it's a sociological thing as well. It's really quite a neat concept."

The geopark will also include Seaside Park, but that site is only accessible by kayak. That, said Merrifield, is part of the tourism attraction.

In December, the official application will be made to UNESCO and then the bid will be presented at a conference in Malaysia in April.

"We have a very active eco-tourism already going on here. We have people from Europe and elsewhere in the world come here to see our unique physical features that we have."

Merrifield said if they receive the international designation, the park will be built up over the next decade. Uptown Saint John and the Waterfront Development Corporation are helping fund the bid, but Merrifield is also raising corporate funds.

"It would be massive, just from the point of view of people suddenly focusing on the fact that we have something special enough here in Saint John to draw the approval of UNESCO is a fairly major deal."

Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia are also in the early stages of putting together a bid.

"We're well ahead and they may eventually have one, but we really want to be the first. Being the first is pretty special."