What is a UNESCO Geopark?

UNESCO’s Global Geopark program highlights outstanding regions around the planet that illustrate significant chapters in Earth’s history. The scheme was established in 2001, and there are now 169 such parks worldwide and five in Canada, forming a global network.

What do they do?

The purpose is to promote further geological research, to heighten public outreach and literacy in Earth science, showcase different cultural uses of landscapes and geological settings in the course of human history, and to develop ecologically-sustainable geotourism for the benefit of local communities.

What don’t they do?

Geoparks are not conventional parks like National or Provincial parks, or Provincial Nature Reserves or Conservation Reserves that have fixed geographic boundaries or entrance fees and restrictions on activities. A Geopark does not legally preserve any area, but instead, provides a thematic umbrella for showcasing the importance of a region’s geology to the public. By increasing public awareness of the geological significance of an area, they promote conservation efforts of other organizations.

Why Georgian Bay?

Georgian Bay exceeds all the criteria for designation as a UNESCO Global Geopark and would be Canada’s largest (more than 15,000 km2). Its landscapes and culture are unique in Canada and help shaped a distinct national identity after 1867, as the young country slowly learned to embrace its harsh uncompromising heartland; the rugged Canadian Shield which defines the eastern, and northern shores of Georgian Bay. To the west and south, much younger rocks create very different landscapes typical of Southern Ontario, such that Georgian Bay straddles the boundary between two very different worlds and landscapes. The formation and erosion of ancient supercontinents, massive mountain ranges, ancient ice ages and giant rivers, the nature of Earth’s early atmospheres, and the crash of giant meteorites, are too, recorded in the rocks that surround Georgian Bay.

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In 10 fully online modules, students review the history and workings of the planet, the geological and environmental history of Ontario, and show how the economic and social development of the province reflects its broader environmental setting and history.

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