Canada has nominated eight new sites to receive UNESCO World Heritage status but Wells Gray Park is not among them.
“I’m disappointed,” said Dr. Cathie Hickson, spokesperson for the committee that put together the application for Wells Gray. “It’s hard not to be. The committee put in a lot of work and effort.”
A vulcanologist who formerly worked with the Geological Service of Canada, Hickson did her Ph.D. thesis on the volcanoes of Wells Gray Park and area.
She has been one of the driving forces to have Wells Gray Park and area considered for UNESCO World Heritage status as well as for a UNESCO Geopark.
A total of 42 new applications were received from across the nation during a public process to find candidates for Canada’s list of tentative World Heritage sites.
This was the first time the nation’s tentative list has been updated since 2004.
The applications were evaluated by an independent ministerial advisory committee in the fields of natural and cultural heritage.
“So, it was a very hard competition. We knew that from the start,” Hickson said. “In the end, they chose eight.”
The vulcanologist said she and the rest of the committee were pleased with the support they received from Simpcw First Nation, Canim Lake Indian Band, Thompson-Nicola Regional District as well as many local individuals – she mentioned in particular Upper Clearwater lichenologist Trevor Goward and Stephanie Molina, marketing manager with Tourism Wells Gray.
“They worked diligently on the project, putting in hours and hours of work,” she said.
The selection committee congratulated the local group on their application, saying that it addressed the questions asked and included strong letters of support.
The eight successful applications were for the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs (located off the coast of B.C.), Stein Valley in British Columbia, Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatchewan, Anticosti Island in Quebec, Heart’s Content Cable Station Provincial Historic Site in Newfoundland and Labrador, Qajartalik in Nunavut, Sirmilik National Park and the proposed Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut and the Yukon Ice Patches in the Yukon.
“Congratulations to them all,” Hickson said. “They are all spectacular and worthy of inclusion as World Heritage Sites.”
Even though the application was not successful, Hickson felt it was worthwhile to have made the attempt.
“It was a good exercise to go through,” she said. “It helped us to understand the merits of Wells Gray Park.”
The work done on the World Heritage application will help with an application for Geopark status as well, she said.
“That’s why I think it’s important to go forward with a Geopark application,” she said. “I’ll be going back to the committee, residents and local governments to work on that.”
A proposal by the TNRD to establish a taxation service to help pay for an application to get Geopark status was turned down in a negative petition last summer.
A total of 16 per cent of electors in the North Thompson Valley signed forms saying they did not want the service, more than half again than the 10 per cent needed to reject the proposal.
Hickson said the renewed Geopark application would not necessarily follow the same boundaries as the TNRD’s proposal – which included the whole Valley.
She said the committee would welcome input and feedback from area residents on what should be included and not included.
All those who worked on the World Heritage application and who are going to work on the Geopark application are volunteers, she pointed out.