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Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark gains four-year renewal from … – Prince George Citizen

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Tumbler Ridge will remain a Global Geopark for at least another four years.

Bestowed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the designation was confirmed in early December following a visit by two evaluators in early August.

“The UNESCO brand – shared by World Heritage Sites, Global Geoparks, and Biosphere Reserves – is an international mark of excellence that is instantly recognizable to tourists, especially those coming from Asian and European countries,” Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark executive director Manda Maggs said. “The endorsement of UNESCO shows that we have earned our place at the highest level of sustainable tourism promoting geological and cultural heritage.”

The evaluators, Hartmut Escher from Germany and Miguel Cruz from Mexico, used over 200 criteria to carry out their assessment. During their inspection, they took a boat trip down the Murray River to Kinuseo Falls, a helicopter flight out to the far reaches of the Geopark, spoke with local politicians and community members and the Geopark’s partners such as Northern BC Tourism.

From there, Escher and Cruz reported their findings to an international committee which met on December 6-8 to discuss new applications and renewals. They awarded a “green card” to Tumbler Ridge, the best any UNESCO Global Geopark can get.

Some room for improvement was identified. In particular, Maggs said the evaluators noticed a lot of motorized boat traffic “being reckless and speedy” on the area’s rivers.

“They were just hoping we could look into how sustainable that is and whether or not it would be a threat to the tourism future of Tumbler Ridge, just making sure people are safe,” Maggs said.

The community of about 2,300 people in northeast B.C. first earned the designation in 2015. Roughly 12,000 visitors pass through each year, most of them during the summer months.

Maggs said the dinosaur tracks and dinosaur museum remain big draws, as do the region’s rivers and lakes and networks of trails for hiking and biking and ATVing.

First established in the 1980s as a coal mining town, Tumbler Ridge began to market itself as a place where people could find an “affordable housing and superior lifestyle within a magnificent natural setting” with the closure of the Quintette Coal Mine in 2000 and the Bullmoose Mine in 2003. That industry has since been revived on a smaller scale while tourism has become a mainstay though ebbs and flows.

“Things definitely go up and down with the price of coal but the tourism side of things has definitely helped level off some of those peaks and lows. It buffers when things go terribly wrong,” Maggs said.

Maggs said the community is also working toward attaining status as a Dark Sky Reserve through the International Dark Sky Association, which should boost the area’s profile among the star gazers.

“We’re all about sustainable tourism and night sky tourism is quite big worldwide,” Maggs said. “Iceland, a lot of the Scandavian countries, do very well off night experiences and that’s something we have in spades here actually.

“With Tumbler Ridge being pretty isolated you get really really good dark sky quality which appeals to photographers, aurora chasers and just the people who want to come out and do some recreational astronomy.”

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