Geoparks in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland earn official UN designations
HALIFAX -- Two geological parks in Atlantic Canada have earned special status from the United Nations.
The Cliffs of Fundy in Nova Scotia and the Discovery Geopark in eastern Newfoundland were both designated UNESCO Global Geoparks Friday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
UNESCO says global geoparks are places that offer visitors a glimpse of exceptional geological heritage.
The Cliffs of Fundy Geopark stretches 125 kilometres, from Debert, N.S., to the Three Sisters cliffs past Eatonville, N.S. -- and out to Isle Haute in the Bay of Fundy.
"We have about 40 different geosites along that location. It's not a one-stop shop. You can spend many days visiting our different sites," manager Beth Peterkin said.
The site is well known for having the world's highest tides, Canada's oldest dinosaur fossils and stunning landscapes steeped in Mi'kmaq and Acadian legends.
"We are the site where the Pangaea continent split apart 200 million years ago. You can see where the rocks split apart. You can see the different types of rocks. You can see the cliffs, and the clam flats, and the shores," Peterkin said.
"At low tide you can walk out on the floor of the Bay of Fundy for a mile or more in many places, but watch the tide, because in six hours and 13 minutes it's going to be 50 feet higher up the shore," she said.
Peterkin and others have been working to get the UNESCO designation for the last five years.
Meanwhile staff at the Discovery Geopark, located on the upper half of Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula, have been working for the past 13 years to get their designation.
The park contains some of the earliest fossils of animal life, with rock dating back more than a half-billion years.
"You can see really unique geology that is of national and international significance," said John Norman, chairman of Discovery Geopark.
"There are some of the oldest complex life fossils on the planet," he said.
Many of the fossils are still in place in the rocks, while others have been removed for display in the provincial museum, The Rooms, in St. John's.
The Discovery Geopark now has 10 sites with interpretation, trails and other infrastructure.
"We have dozens of other sites within our geosites inventory that aren't yet showcased to the public," Norman said. "Some of them will never be. Some of them are for research. Some of them are for academic only and others will be showcased to the public as more infrastructure is added."
There are now 163 global geoparks in 44 countries, and Peterkin said being part of that group provides important exposure.
"People who travel to one geopark will soon learn about the next geopark. We'll be able to reach visitors that we were never able to reach on our own," she said.
Norman said the designation puts them on the world stage, especially in Asia and Europe where geoparks are popular.
Cliffs of Fundy and Discovery join three other UNESCO Global Geoparks in Canada: Stonehammer in New Brunswick, Perce in Quebec and Tumbler Ridge in British Columbia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2020.
-- By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.