HALIFAX – Two geological parks in Atlantic Canada have gained special status from the United Nations.
The cliffs of Fundy, Nova Scotia, and the Discovery Geopark, in eastern Newfoundland, were designated UNESCO global geoparks Friday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
UNESCO says that global geoparks are places that offer visitors a glimpse of the exceptional geological heritage.
The Geopark Cliffs of Fundy extends 125 kilometers from Debert, NS, to the cliffs of the Three Sisters, passing through Eatonville, NS – and leaving for Isle Haute, in the Bay of Fundy.
“We have about 40 different geosites at this location. It is not a one-stop shop. You can spend many days visiting our different sites,” said manager Beth Peterkin.
The place is known for having the highest tides in the world, Canada’s oldest dinosaur fossils and breathtaking scenery steeped in the Mi’kmaq and Acadian legends.
“We are the place where the continent of Pangea separated 200 million years ago. You can see where the rocks separate. You can see the different types of rocks. You can see the cliffs, the clams and the shores.” Peterkin said.
“At low tide, you can walk 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 you will be 50 feet higher on the coast,” she said.
Peterkin and others have been working to obtain UNESCO designation for the past five years.
Meanwhile, employees at the Discovery Geopark, located in the upper half of the Terra Nova Bonavista Peninsula, have been working for the past 13 years to earn their designation.
The park contains some of the oldest fossils of animal life, with rocks dating back more than half a billion years.
“You can see a really unique geology, of national and international importance,” said John Norman, president of Discovery Geopark.
“There are some of the oldest fossils of complex life on the planet,” he said.
Many of the fossils are still in place on the rocks, while others have been removed for display at the provincial museum, The Rooms, in St. John’s.
Discovery Geopark now has 10 sites with interpretation, trails and other infrastructure.
“We have dozens of other sites in our inventory of geosites that have not yet been shown to the public,” said Norman. “Some of them will never be. Some of them are for research. Some of them are only for academics and others will be shown to the public as more infrastructure is added.”
There are currently 163 global geoparks in 44 countries, and Peterkin said that being part of that group provides an important exposure.
“People who travel to a geopark will soon learn about the next geopark. We will be able to reach visitors we have never been able to reach alone,” 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 global UNESCO 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 on 10 July 2020.
– By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.