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May 23, 2016

By Charles Helm

Jim Kincaid (President of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation) represents the museum at the “Spirit of the Peace Network”, the group that binds together all museums in the BC and Alberta Peace Region.

Six weeks ago, when attending one of these meetings, he met Jim Merrithew, the Economic Development Officer for Grande Cache. They got chatting about the globally important dinosaur footprint heritage that Tumbler Ridge and Grande Cache share.

Meantime Dr Rich McCrea and Dr Lisa Buckley, the scientists at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, have been working with other communities and institutions that boast dinosaur and other fossil attractions in the region, recognizing that together we are stronger, and that enormous potential exists for a product that links such communities for tourism and economic development.

Rich and Lisa have led the charge on this “Northern Dinosaur Trail” project, and have contacted officials and colleagues in Grande Cache, the Philip J. Currie Museum near Grande Prairie, and the Yukon Territory.

In addition there is the Williston Lake project, which will be led by the Tumbler Ridge scientists this summer, and which will likely yield another site of international significance with the potential to create a major year-round tourist attraction near Hudson’s Hope.

The resulting five major dinosaur attractions would be complemented by exhibits in communities like Chetwynd and at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, and by First Nations interpretive sites. All who have been contacted so far have expressed great interest in being a part of such a Northern Dinosaur Trail.

As a result of these combined initiatives and meetings, the Mayor and Council of Grande Cache invited Jim and Rich to their community for a meeting to further explain this concept, and to look for ways to partner on it and advance it.

The result was a remarkable experience for our two representatives, as the Council, Chamber of Commerce and community opened their arms and hosted them. Many far-reaching positive effects can be expected to come of this trip. Being the southernmost community in the planned Northern Dinosaur Trail, and with the majority of tourists coming from the south, Grande Cache is obviously key to the success of the initiative, while the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark and Dinosaur Discovery Gallery are conveniently placed at its hub and would attract both northbound and southbound traffic.

Similar initiatives elsewhere in North America, such as the Dinosaur Diamond in Utah and Colorado, have been highly successful and have led to great economic development opportunities.

For me, noting the economic downturn and the resulting challenges our community faces, it is incredibly heart-warming to see a scientist and a volunteer go to such trouble to help our community and to increase its economic diversification potential.

They are also two of the local community champions whose vision and dedication gave us the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark. Such initiatives complement and add to the good economic development work that our Mayor and Council, CAO and EDO are doing. It is a healthy sign when a non-profit volunteer group like the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation steps up to the plate, in the hope of alleviating the current economic challenges and building a bright future for Tumbler Ridge.



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