2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


NOWLAN, Godfrey S., Geological Survey of Canada, 3303 -33rd Street N.W, Calgary, AB T2L 2A7, Canada, gnowlan@NRCan.gc.ca

Parks have been an integral part of Canadian life for more than 100 years. They have given rise to a tradition of family camping holidays that are part recreation and part education. As a result, parks have become major centres of environmental, scientific and cultural education. Although many parks have geological features at their core, they are not exclusively geoscience parks and, in fact, geoscience issues are poorly explained in some parks. The recently developed UNESCO concept of a Geopark is to serve three goals: conserving a healthy environment, educating in the Earth sciences and fostering local, sustainable economic development. The history, background and concept of these two forms of parks are different.

When Europeans arrived in North America, they saw almost completely undeveloped and unspoiled lands and soon decided to protect some areas of outstanding beauty. With development of the more remote areas of the continent, parks were developed steadily in these regions as well. In areas of the world where population density has been high over a long period of time, like Europe and China, little or no land remained undeveloped and the same opportunity for protection was not possible. This simple fact has resulted in different philosophies for developing parks. Protection is strong and complete in Canadian parks and development has been discouraged, but the popularity of some parks has resulted in economic development that presents challenges. By contrast, socio-economic development is encouraged in European and Chinese geoparks. A second difference is that the entire local community is engaged in the development of a geopark, whereas the history of some Canadian parks is that people were actually moved away. A third contrast is that all geoparks are interconnected in a single program, thereby raising awareness of them all, whereas Canadian parks fall under many different jurisdictions at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

There is scope for development of geoparks in Canada. There are many worthy geoheritage sites located well away from the main tourist areas. Many of these are in economically depressed areas that could benefit enormously from a geopark. Geoparks come with the great advantage of being focused on protection of geoheritage as well as local economic development.