THE establishment of a UNESCO Global Geopark in the district looks set to be ratified by today (Wednesday). In December, it was confirmed that the 2020 application for the special designation for ‘Mourne Gullion Strangford’ had been approved by the Global Geoparks Council (GGC) and that this would be tabled for rubberstamping by the UNESCO Executive Board in 2023. The 216th session of the Executive Board is currently taking place in Paris – it finishes this evening – and one of the recommendations tabled for ratification is the creation of 18 new Geoparks across the planet, including the proposal for this district. The agenda recommends that the board ‘endorse the nominations of the UNESCO Global Geoparks decided upon by the UNESCO GGC at its seventh statutory meeting held during the 7th Asia Pacific Geoparks Network Symposium, in Satun UNESCO Global Geopark, Thailand, on 4 and 5 September 2022, and online from 7 to 9 December 2022’.
Other documentation highlights that the Mourne Gullion Strangford Geopark will cover ‘an area of 960 km² and a population of 100,322’. ‘The region boasts three discrete upland regions in the Dromara Hills, Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gullion,’ it reads. ‘The uplands are surrounded by lowlands covered in glacial sediment, much of which is in the form of drumlins. ‘The mountains are dissected by valleys formed by ice during the last glaciation. ‘The Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark is noted for its discrete Palaeogene Complexes, each one with its own character and beauty.’ In December, a council statement said that Geopark status will ‘recognise the area’s internationally significant geological heritage, particularly the spectacular landscape of the district’s three AONBs’. Geoparks are defined as ‘single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development’, and which ‘support the sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through geological and geo-tourism’.