Bonavista’s Tourism Boom May Get Bigger with New Geopark

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At the moment, the Bonavista Peninsula is nearly uncontested as the most attractive place to visit on the island. It has it all, from history and views and local brews, to fantastic food spots and quality shopping that ranges from craft soap shops to world-class furnishings. Next up might be a unique “UNESCO Global Geopark.”

Earlier this year, DAGI (Discovery Aspiring Geopark Inc) received funding from ACOA and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation to work on five Geosites worthy of consideration for a UNESCO  Global Geopark.

A Global Geopark is defined as a “UNESCO-designated area containing one or more sites of particular geological importance, intended to conserve geological heritage, and promote public awareness of it, typically through tourism, [while also]enhancing awareness and understanding of key issues facing society.“

DAGI’s 1st Annual Meeting for the  is scheduled for 7:30 PM tonight, at the College of the North Atlantic in Bonavista. The meeting is open to the general public. Their plan is to apply to the Canadian Geopark Network, with the hopes of becoming Canada’s third UNESCO Global Geopark.

The other two existing Canadian Geoparks are New Brunswick’s Stonehammer Geopark, and The Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, which commemorates the formation of the Canadian Rockies. Ours would be a park including various communities located throughout the drive along both sides of the Bonavista peninsula.

Worldwide, there are just over 125 Global Geoparks. Each of them create both employment opportunities and tourism draws, while safeguarding history and promoting areas of scientific significance.

Edith Samson is a Co-Chair of DAGI. She explains that “the area around Port Union, Catalina, and Little Catalina has internationally significant Edicarian fossils.”

The area is referred to as the Catalina Dome, and has numerous outcrops with fossil surfaces. “Edicarian fossils were first discovered in Australia, and there are approximately 35 known sites worldwide,” she says, adding that “Newfoundland is one of the most accessible areas to see them in the world.”

Last spring, a paleontologist from UK’s Cambridge University (Emily Mitchell) was on the Bonavista Peninsula, investigating what these ancient fossils can tell us about some of the most primitive organisms captured in fossil form on the planet.

Catalina’s fossils are an astounding 560 million years old, and remain a bit of a mystery. Dubbed both “weird-looking” and “incredibly important”  by Mitchell, it’s unclear if these fossils are animals, plants, fungi, or what, but she presumes they hold the key to better understanding the evolutionary origins of animals.

Mitchell has plans to return to the area to do research on another spot DAGI is eyeing for its Global Geopark: Port Union, where a recent discovery of a rare Haootia quadriformis fossil bed has gained international attention. These fossils may be the earliest evidence of animal muscle tissue on earth.

DAGI’s next step is to engage the residents and businesses within the Discovery Aspiring Geopark boundary.

“As we strive for UNESCO Global Geopark status, we will need to draw upon the experiences within our communities to explain how our geological story helped shape the people we’ve become, and how we can work together to protect our assets for generations to come,” says Samson.

With people like Edith Samson eyeing opportunities to further develop the booming Bonavista peninsula, it’s no wonder this rural wonderland is thriving where others are not. If you build it, they will come. Other rural towns are bleeding youth for example, while Bonavista is attracting them. In fact, they just elected their youngest mayor ever in John Norman.

About Author

Chad Pelley

Chad Pelley is an author, songwriter, and journalist who wrote for publications like the Globe & Mail and The Telegraph-Journal before founding The Overcast. Now he spends 25 hours a day keeping up with his email, and has no time to be his former self.