The International Appalachian Trail Newfoundland & Labrador has taken a page from the IAT Europe playbook with plans to establish a Global Geopark, spanning the Bay of Islands Ophiolites from Lewis Hills to Gros Morne National Park. Other stakeholders include Western Newfoundland Destination Management Organization (Go Western), Corner Brook Pulp & Paper Ltd, and all towns in the Bay of Islands and western side of Gros Morne National Park.
But what you ask is a Global Geopark? It is an area recognized by the UNESCO supported Global Network of National Geoparks to have exceptional geological heritage. This simply means that the area has a natural landscape that is good for education, has a significant scientific value, is particularly rare, or is simply beautiful to look at. But Geoparks aren’t just about geology. They also take in sites with interesting history and archaeology, wildlife and habitats, folklore and culture, all of which are intricately linked with the underlying geology.
European Geoparks are members of the Global Network of National Geoparks, also known as the Global Geoparks Network. The GGN “provides a platform for cooperation and exchange between experts and practitioners in geological heritage, and its promotion. Under the umbrella of UNESCO, and through cooperation with the global network partners, important local and national geological sites gain worldwide recognition and benefit from the exchange of knowledge and expertise with staff of other Geoparks.
UNESCO and the GGN develop models of best practice and set quality standards for territories that integrate the preservation of geological heritage into strategies for regional sustainable economic development. The establishment of a Geopark aims to bring sustainability and real economic benefit to the local populations, usually through the development of sustainable tourism and other economic and cultural activities.”
In Europe, the International Appalachian Trail traverses 8 Geoparks, including North West Highlands and Lochaber Geoparks in Scotland, North Pennines and English Riviera Geoparks in England, Geo Mon and Forest Fawr Geoparks in Wales, Villuercas Ibores Jara Geopark in Spain, and Naturtejo Geopark in Portugal.
In Western Newfoundland, the proposed Geopark will span the “Bay of Islands Ophiolites,” from Lewis Hills to Gros Morne National Park. These large tectonic mesas form a series of ophiolite complexes of mafic and ultramafic rock high in magnesium and iron. The mafic are composed largely of gabbro and derive from the earth’s oceanic crust, while the ultramafic are composed mostly of peridotite, and come from the earth’s mantle below. Both heaved to the surface during tectonic collisions 100’s of millions of years ago, and are some of the best examples on the planet.
As described in Beyond Ktaadn’s new Eastern Alpine Guide, “these mountains support tens of thousands of hectares of boreal, subalpine, alpine, and serpentine wilderness … and are unique because they are derived from mantle, the hot, metal-rich sludge that forms the majority of the Earth’s insides. In the Lewis Hills, for example, rocks may be observed that represent the boundary between oceanic crust and mantle, which typically occurs 10 km (6 mi) below the surface.
For more on the story, go to the IATNL Website