CAO David Denault emphatically praised the offer for Midland to be the centre of a ‘unique’ GeoPark project, telling council that it was a 'homerun' that could ‘solve some of the problems we have with sustainability as a region.'
During a recent committee of the whole meeting, members of the Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation (MBLDC) gave an extended presentation on a feasibility study conducted earlier this year, which looked into the possibility of Midland being a hub for a UNESCO Global GeoPark in North Simcoe.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a 1945 post-war organization dedicated to sustainable development goals resulting in peace through international cooperation.
A GeoPark is a unified geographic area where sites and landscapes of geological significance are managed through conservation and local communities to promote protection, education, and sustainable development. Currently in Canada, there are seven Aspiring GeoParks and five Global GeoParks, with a total of 169 across 44 countries worldwide.
Speaking to council, Brand[Trade] Inc. co-founder Tony Pigott provided results on what made Midland such a viable candidate. Brand[Trade] partnered with Dr. Nick Eyles, professor of geology at the University of Toronto and author of several books about Georgian Bay, to pitch the geology, history and culture of the area.
“It was our proposal to them that convinced the Canadian GeoParks Network (CGN) that Georgian Bay and the participating regions could indeed be one of the most significant UNESCO GeoParks in the world,” said Pigott.
Pigott described Georgian Bay as being of two geological points of interest, the Precambrian gneiss of the Canadian Shield to the east and Paleozoic and fossil-rich sediment to the west.
“It’s the fact that there are elements of the Georgian Bay writ large here in North Simcoe,” Pigott explained, “that allows this area to pass the test, as it were, as a microcosm of Georgian Bay.”
Further explanation of the Brand[Trade] report included partnership with local municipalities, Indigenous communities and conservation groups, which could expand into the local economy through tourism, education, products and more. A research institution was also mentioned, with Pigott explaining that any interactions could be handled virtually and the building constructed afterward.
Costs to launch and operate in other Canadian GeoParks over a three-year span have ranged from roughly $150,000 on the low end up to approximately $1,000,000 depending on the local dedication given to the individual sites.
Pigott explained that prior to a year-one GeoPark, the creation of a not-for-profit legal operating entity would be necessary; after one year, UNESCO could decide to approve it to Aspiring GeoPark status.
MBLDC chair Bill Kernohan explained that should council approve the report, the MBLDC would “pass the torch” of the GeoPark project to a steering committee and return back to their core mandate.
Council was mixed between excited and hesitant, due to the ongoing concerns with Midland Bay Landing.
Meeting chair Coun. Mike Ross reminded council that the motion was looking solely at the GeoPark report.
CAO David Denault took time to assure council and the public of the magnitude the GeoPark project could provide to the area, pointing out that some members of the community weren’t appreciative of the thoughtful cultural harmony presented by MBLDC previously.
“Because some of us are familiar with GeoParks and UNESCO,” described Denault, “we’ve got a very unique asset here that I think is underappreciated by people outside of the area.
“I’ve heard them say that this could be one of the most significant UNESCO GeoParks in the world. This is a very exclusive club that we’re being invited to join, and this is going to be done outside of the municipality,” Denault explained.
Denault further mentioned that federal and provincial grants along with other sources of external funding would be borne outside the municipality.
“But if North Simcoe and the Georgian Bay area appreciates what this could do as it has done for other GeoParks. I think you’ll solve some of the problems we have with sustainability as a region,” Denault added. “For me, this is a home run, and I couldn’t be more supportive of what this report says.”
Council carried the motion to endorse the study, with a steering group consisting of Pigott, Eyles, and Brand[Trade] co-founder Cameron Brohman to commence work on the development and launch of a GeoPark in the Georgian Bay area.
Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca