Geopark application should focus on Clearwater-Wells Gray

My proposal is to narrow the focus to Clearwater-Wells Gray for the Geopark application

Map shows the location of many of the geological features in Wells Gray Park that would be included in a proposed UNESCO Geopark.

Map shows the location of many of the geological features in Wells Gray Park that would be included in a proposed UNESCO Geopark.

Editor, The Times:

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to provide a bit of an update on the UNESCO Geopark application.

Firstly I wanted to thank those from the community who came out for my presentation Wednesday evening, April 6, Wells Gray, Volcanic Gem of the Cariboo Mountains.

The visit was sponsored by the Kamloops Exploration Group, who provided me with an opportunity to present the same talk in Kamloops on Thursday evening.

While I was visiting Clearwater I also took the opportunity to meet with Mayor Harwood and Leslie Groulx (Clearwater’s chief administrative officer) as well as the new manager of Tourism Wells Gray, Stefanie Molina.

All three are supportive of the Geopark application and we discussed how to make it successful. My proposal to them was to narrow the focus to Clearwater-Wells Gray for the Geopark application and make the longer, larger Kamloops-Valemont corridor (proposed a year or more ago) a tourism/marketing focus piece.

I suggested that there are three themes that could be built upon for this corridor that resonate well with current usage. These are:

1) Human culture in the North Thompson valley with a strong emphasis on First Nations heritage and use, early explorers and early pioneers;

2) Geological/geographic highlights anchored in the west at the McAbee Fossil site (provincial Heritage Site and protected area) and in the east at Mount Robson (UNESCO World Heritage Site), with the Clearwater-Wells Gray proposed Geopark in the center;

3) Biology/ecology of the corridor with emphasis on the rivers and changing biological zones from west to east coupled with variation in wildlife and vegetation.

I see salmon as a cross-cutting topic that unifies these three themes by tying in elements from each. It is around the three themes that a strong marketing presence and supportive materials can be built to encourage people to stay, play and learn along this diverse geography that many of you call home.

On Wednesday afternoon I met with Canfor and other members of the Upper Clearwater referral group to make a presentation about the area dubbed “Three Gorges” or First, Second and Third Canyon creeks.

This is an area I consider critical to the UNESCO Geopark application. The landforms seen in this section of the valley are the best developed in the Clearwater-Wells Gray corridor and coincidently are also the most accessible.

From the young cinder cone of Buck Hill to the exposures of hoodoos and dykes, this is truly a wondersome area to visit and get to know better.

If a goal of Clearwater is to increase visitation in the shoulder and winter seasons, then this is the place to do it!

The aspen growth on the hill sides make for splendid fall colours, the broad upper plateau is easy for skiing, and the hiking in the canyons is magnificent.

A Geopark application does not preclude industrial usage of an area, but I question the balancing of long term tourist values with logging.

I asked Canfor to provide an economic analysis of logging their proposed areas. With this information, the touristic value of this area can be estimated and a decision made as to whether logging or tourism is the best long term solution for the people of Clearwater and the Upper Clearwater valley.

There are also some technical issues involved in the industrial use of this area and I have provided Canfor with information about slope stability in volcanic areas.

Although this area is relatively unique there are analogous areas in British Columbia that can be reviewed.

Dr. Catherine Hickson PGeo, FGC

Burnaby, B.C.