A group aspiring to bring the first geopark to Ontario is hoping the designation will help shine a light on Haudenosaunee history in the area.
The Niagara Peninsula Aspiring Global Geopark (NPAGG) is seeking designation as an International Geopark through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is hoping to create a relationship with Six Nations of the Grand River before the designation comes, likely in 2023.
Following approval, the Niagara Peninsula will become Ontario’s first UNESCO Global Geopark and the sixth in Canada.
“This exciting project reflects the extensive geological sites found in the Peninsula, including the southern end of the iconic Niagara Escarpment and can enhance meaningful visits to the Greenbelt and support rural tourism and pandemic recovery,” says Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation. “A first in Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula Geopark will increase local and eventually international visitors while enhancing understanding of these lands and why they are protected.”
As defined by UNESCO, Geoparks are popular tourism destinations.
Geo-tourism is a niche-market that has grown internationally for 20 plus years and can offer a boost to Greenbelt visitor traffic and economic impact, according to the Greenbelt Foundation.
“Niagara’s rich geological and cultural heritage is a story worth telling,”says NPAAG Chair Perry Hartwick. “Having the Greenbelt Foundation as our Sustainable Prosperity Partner will help us tell this story to both local and international audiences, while bringing attention to the innovation and successes of sustainable businesses operating across the region. By celebrating and protecting our collective geoheritage, we can bring economic prosperity to our communities, inspire a sense of place across Niagara, and encourage further development in a way that respects the place that we call home.”
NPAAG volunteer board member, Phil Davis, is a member of Six Nations who is working to ensure that Haudenosaunee people are recognized in the geopark.
“My big focus was sharing our knowledge as Haudenosaunee people here in Niagara. The goal is to eventually create trails, a trail system, to raise the bar of Haudenosaunee people, how long we’ve been here,” he told Six Nations elected council last week.
The group is seeking Six Nations’ support in the creation of the geopark as it sits on Six Nations traditional lands and territory.
Coun. Sherri-lyn Hill-Pierce said she was concerned Six Nations was being consulted on the project as an afterthought.
“We always seem to be the last ones involved when we should be the first ones involved. What’s this going to do for Six Nations?”
Davis said geoparks are tied to sustainable development goals and are also able to earn carbon credits, the government’s rebate program for projects that reduce greenhouse gases.