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Penetang has ‘deepest story’ of Georgian Bay, says Geopark group

In Development
May 10th, 2023
Tony Pigott of the Georgian Bay GeoPark Network was host to a 2021 presentation at the Midland Cultural Centre which offered a look at how Georgian Bay could benefit in becoming a UNESCO Global GeoPark. |

From BarrieToday, April 29, 2023
By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A world-stage spotlight on Penetanguishene was offered to the town with the label of “Geopark” attached.

Members of Penetanguishene council and the community attended a recent special committee of the whole dedicated solely to a presentation from the aspiring Georgian Bay Geopark group, speaking to the key role the town could play in becoming the destination for a worldwide tourist initiative.

The short presentation from Tony Pigott, executive director of the Georgian Bay Geopark and one of 14 volunteers on the project, highlighted previous presentations in the area while focusing specifically on why Penetanguishene would be an ideal location to start.

“This is a very, very special place,” Pigott began. “There is a gathering of things – the landscape, culture and history – that are so extraordinary, and they are a perfect match for what UNESCO believes are essential places of the world to shine a light on to protect and to create opportunities around.”

Founded in 1945, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a post-war organization dedicated to sustainable development goals resulting in peace through international co-operation.

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. There are currently five Global GeoParks within Canada, with a total of 177 across 46 countries worldwide.

What Pigott had pitched to Penetanguishene was a brief summary of Georgian Bay’s value within the proposal. First was a promotional video from the Global Geoparks Network showcasing what others around the world were exhibiting, followed by a slideshow which stated that Georgian Bay was “well-positioned to get designation from UNESCO” as one of 140 places applying for final designation.

“When we look at Penetanguishene and the region, we see this as a very unique and important area, and in many ways the deepest story of them all. This region is a microcosm for all of Georgian Bay,” said Pigott.

His three-item request to the town included a letter of support, collaborative work on the project and the endorsement for a “soft launch” of the Geopark through education and marketing.

Members of council were receptive to the presentation with Coun. Doug Leroux stating that the proposal would work well within the town’s developing strategic plan.

A question from Deputy Mayor Dan La Rose looked at where the soft launch would need to be physically located, with Pigott aiming for a small footprint at the information centre at town dock.

Coun. George Vadeboncoueur asked questions regarding compatibility and potential friction with other land uses from private property to nearby national and provincial parks; Pigott explained that there would be overlap to the benefit of protections and conservation with no impositions upon those entities.

Mayor Doug Rawson requested details on First Nations and Métis collaboration on the proposal.

At that point, Midland Deputy Mayor Jack Contin took to the podium in response as a representative liaison, having worked as a founding member of the regional UNESCO biosphere reserve program since 2004.

“There’s a lot of meetings that will occur in the next year or so,” said Contin, noting that meetings over the next year would occur along the shoreline communities of Georgian Bay up to the north shore.

“There’s a lot of information that needs to be shared but also information that needs to be collected from First Nations to ensure they’re inclusive, they’re going to be a partner, and we will not move unless they’re a part of the process,” Contin added.

A member of the public reinforced the importance of the opportunity to the region, and pointed out that during the two-year process of filing for the application that Penetanguishene council would need to be proactive in preparing for an inevitable influx of global tourists seeking out the town as the Geopark hub.

Pigott replied: “This is, no question, the most ambitious UNESCO Geopark that’s been undertaken in the world; it is also likely to be one of the largest, if not the largest.”

Members of the committee thanked Pigott and the Geopark group, and asked Penetanguishene town staff to prepare a report on the group requests for further examination.

In 2021, the group along with Pigott had presented a similar showcase to the previous term of Midland council, members of whom were hesitant due to concerns over the Midland Bay Landing project. At that time, former CAO David Denault praised the project as “a home run” that could “solve some of the problems we have with sustainability as a region.”

The slideshow presentation by the aspiring Georgian Bay Geopark group can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Read the article here

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