1 November 2017

Stonehammer Park scratches surface of Earth’s history

Stonehammer Park, one of only two locales in Canada with the UNESCO Global Geopark designation, is made for explorers, both active and passive.

By Liz Beddall   Special to the Star - thestar.com

SAINT JOHN, N.B.—At the westernmost point of Saints Rest Beach in Saint John’s Irving Nature Park, the waves of the Bay of Fundy are obstructed by a cliff edge capped with lush forest. At first glance, the rocks that make up the jagged wall are unremarkable — they are grey, covered in patches of moss and similar to those of any beach in the region.
A closer look, however, will reveal small, white scratches on the rock face that speak to 15,000 years of the Earth’s history — a souvenir of a time when the tip of an Ice Age glacier left an indelible impression on the stone. This tangible offering of an ancient world is only one minuscule component of the 60 significant geological and fossil locales, and 12 Southern New Brunswick sites which make up the Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark.

“We have some of the best publicly accessible areas where you can actually see the Earth’s processes,” says Gail Bremner, executive director of Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark. “You can see where Africa and South America rammed into current-day North America … you can kayak to the Precambrian stromatolite fossils, one of the first forms of oxygen breathing organisms on earth.”

Created as a means to emphasize geologically, ecologically and culturally significant landscapes throughout the world, the UNESCO Global GeoPark designation was granted to Saint John and its surrounding terrain in 2015. Of 120 such parks in the world, Stonehammer is one of only two that currently bear this title in Canada.

“The Saint John region showcases evidence of every geological period except for the Jurassic, and that one’s still a question mark,” says Bremner, who adds that Southern New Brunswick was one of the first places in Canada to be explored by geologists.

In celebration of its treasures, Stonehammer Park offers numerous active experiences developed to encourage visitors and locals to engage with the terrain. Experiences include kayaking, hiking, ziplining and climbing at various sites, including LePreau Falls Provincial Park, the Irving Nature Park and the village of St. Martins.

“For the less active and more passive explorer, try visiting the New Brunswick Museum to learn more about the Earth’s history, or witness the birthplace of the Atlantic Ocean along the walkable Fundy Trail.”

And what about those who’ve never been moved by minerals? Bremner says no problem.

“Our mission is to teach people about the Earth,” Bremner says. “Ninety-four per cent of the population aren’t geology experts, but we still want them to have fun here and to learn while they’re doing it.”

Liz Beddall was hosted by Tourism New Brunswick, which did not review or approve this story.