N.B.'s UNESCO bid explored by geologists
Geologists from Germany and Ireland are in southwestern New Brunswick this week to evaluate a proposal to create North America's first United Nations geopark.
The designation would cover an area from Lepreau Falls to Fundy National Park and inland to the Norton Fossil Field.
It would also include popular tourist attractions such as the Saint John River's Reversing Falls, where the stream forces its way through a narrow opening in billion-year-old rock.
The designation would highlight important geological features and the stories related to them. In order to get the project running, the group needs United Nations approval through UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The UN describes a geopark as a scenic area of special geoscientific significance, rare natural attributes and aesthetically ornamental value.
Geoparks are popular sites for sightseeing and cultural recreation, but also a key protected area of geological heritage and base for geoscientific research and popularization, it says.
Unique in North America
Irish geologist Patrick McKeever intends to check out all the key sites during his visit as a UNESCO evaluator.
"I was taken aback by how professionally the application had been put together," he said of the New Brunswick bid, which was officially submitted to UNESCO in April.
"It's going to give you something else other areas in Canada and North America simply don't have. It's going to be a unique product for New Brunswick and for the Saint John area."
If the application is accepted, the area will be designated Stonehammer UNESCO Geopark.
The province and the city of Saint John have put money into the bid. A decision is expected by the fall.
There are 64 geoparks in the world in such countries as Italy, Norway and Iran.