Group pitches Penetanguishene council on UNESCO Global Geopark status for Georgian Bay

A group that had a swing and a miss in 2021 in trying to secure support from Midland town council for a bid for a UNESCO Global Geopark for Georgian Bay has had a receptive response from the special committee of the whole in neighbouring Penetanguishene, according to Midland Today.

Georgian Bay is already home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the 30,000 Islands of eastern Georgian Bay. The volunteer group led by Tony Pigott is proposing another UNESCO status for the entire bay. According to the Toronto Star, Tony Pigott, co-founder of Brand [Trade], had partnered with Dr. Nick Eyles, professor of geology at the University of Toronto and author of several books about Georgian Bay, to make the Midland pitch for a UNESCO Global Geopark. Brand[Trade] says it “helps governments build strong nation brands by aligning consumerism with the cultural economy.” Midland declined the opportunity to be a gateway for the Geopark because of uncertainty over the status of its waterfront development plan.

UNESCO began designating Geoparks in 2001, and describes them as “single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular.” There are currently 177 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 46 countries. Canada has five: Discovery on Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bonavista Peninsula, Percé on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, Stonehammer on New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, Cliffs of Fundy in Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin, and Tumbler Ridge in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia.

The presentation to Pentanguishene’s council stressed the business and tourism benefits of the bay as a “portal to deep time,” with a geological history dating back 2.5 billion years and a human history reaching back 12,000 years.

The group is asking Penetanguishene to provide a letter of support, to coordinate on further steps, and to participate in a “soft launch” of the Geopark concept. The group envisions close collaboration with First Nations and Métis communities. According to Midland Today, deputy mayor Jack Contin, who was involved in securing the Biosphere designation for eastern Georgian Bay, advised: “There’s a lot of information that needs to be shared but also information that needs to be collected from First Nations to ensure they’re inclusive, they’re going to be a partner, and we will not move unless they’re a part of the process.” 

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