Thursday July 24, 2014



QUESTION OF THE WEEK

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For the dinosaurs

Tumbler Ridge seeking support to become a geopark
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Dr. Charles Helm spoke at the Peace River Regional District last week.

$250,000 to give them a chance to become a world recognized geopark.

A geopark is an area whose geological heritage makes it internationally significant, according to United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The necessary changes will require $170,000 renovations to the Tumbler Ridge Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, a museum that displays dinosaur bones obtained from the region. They are also asking for $75,000 to pay for costs associated with a symposium designed to help get geopark status.

One of the main proponents of the idea is Dr. Charles Helm, a general practitioner currently living in Tumbler Ridge.

Helm, who has been living in Tumbler Ridge for over 20 years, said that he realized what a special area the land was.

“The beautiful natural surroundings, and these wonderful scientific discoveries in combination, I believe that it fits us in a select group of places on this planet that are special and worthy of recognition,” he said. “We just felt that this geopark this concept, this brand, is a perfect fit for what we have for the Tumbler Ridge area.”

Ninety areas have in the world have geoparks status, according to UNESCO.

Helm hopes that the Tumbler Ridge area would be added, making it the second such geopark within North America. The other geopark, Stonehammer, is located in New Brunswick.

“There is clearly a potential opportunity for the creation of such a geopark in the Tumbler Ridge area, given our rich fossil heritage … the Museum exhibits in the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery and the Community Centre, the numerous geological features in the area (waterfalls, rock formations, alpine summits, caves, etc.) and the extensive network of hiking trails to destinations of geological interest,” Helms wrote in an earlier letter.

One section, Fossil Fish Lake, has a number of well-preserved specimens of animals around during the time of the dinosaurs.

In 2001, two Tumbler Ridge boys discovered dinosaur tracks in a creek-bed near town. Afterwards, numerous discoveries were made about prehistoric life, which prompted the development of the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery and the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre, which studies the remnants of life from prehistoric times.

The geopark would also highlight ecosystems, First Nations history, pioneer heritage, and the culture.

The surface area would cover 7,822 square kilometres. For comparison, Prince Edward Island has 5,660 square kilometres in its entirety.

“It’s essentially the Tumbler Ridge area from east to west,” said Helm. “Some of the parts … have concentrations of areas of natural beauty, others are more where the scientific discoveries have been made, or where we anticipate more are going to be made.”

Helm believes that the area would help add economic diversity and job creation to the area, as other geoparks have brought in to their respective areas.

“That would be mostly in regards to the short term in tourism jobs, and one would have to see how that evolves,” he added. “You might have a different set of people coming into town to do the research, you never know where one would lead.”

Helms also believes that the exposure would bring further public attention to the beauties of the Tumbler Ridge area.

“The picture just came up of an area that has not been fully appreciated for what it is,” said Helm.

The group plans to submit an expression of interest to the Canadian National Committee for Geoparks (CNCG) next Month.

“That’s just the protocol,” said Helm. “You can’t directly apply to UNESCO … each country has to go through their national committee first.”

The steering committee believes this will prompt a visit by the committee this summer.

So far, they have received $367,500 in provincial and federal funding.

Helm said that they were also supposed to receive $250,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada, a Federal funding program. However, a Federal change in funding collapsed this funding.

“Each of the three sources depended on the other two to happen, each group is prepared to contribute a certain percentage,” said Helm. “The other two have said okay, folks, you’ve got a little bit of time to find the funding elsewhere.”

Part of their proposal requires funding from the PRRD. This includes things like a $50,000 improvement to the exhibit area, and $10,000 for exterior paint, to improve the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery and the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre. These costs were also part of their proposal to Western Economic Diversification.

“(The buildings) are situated in the old Claude Galibois School that was obtained at a very handsome rate by the District of Tumbler Ridge to use that facility,” said Helm. “It’s still an old school. There’s a challenge in creating a facility that is attractive, that does justice to the wonderful exhibits that are in it.”

Another $75,000 would be spent on bringing members of the Canadian National Committee on Geoparks and other experts to see the areas of the Tumbler Ridge geopark during their fifth annual geopark symposium scheduled later this year.

“(The idea) is to put on a top-end symposium, the kind that has not been seen here before,” he added. “This involves bringing experts in their field to Tumbler Ridge … not only paleontological, but geological, archaeology, human history.”

Helm said he could not say how many experts and CNCG members would be attending.

This includes $10,000 to bring in presenters and other invited guests, $5,000 in catering and banquet, $20,000 for helicopter support, and $5,000 for accommodations for these individuals. An extra $5,000 will be spent to send a steering committee member to a global geopark international event.

“One has to fly them in, one has to treat them well,” he said. He also noted that a helicopter can cost over $1,000 per hour to fly.

So far, the committee’s proposal has received some support from the PRRD. The District directors voted to send a letter of support for the Tumbler Ridge geopark.

The District did not vote for any funding, however. Instead, they asked staff to come back with a report, and hope to vote on it at their next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 28.

The District of Tumbler Ridge also contributes $200,000 to the Discovery Gallery and Paleontology Research Centre annually.


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