Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Geoparks:
What is a UNESCO Global Geopark?
A UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp) is a single, unified geographical area where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. A UNESCO Global Geopark comprises a number of geological heritage sites of special scientific importance, rarity or beauty. These features are representative of a region's geological history and the events and processes that formed it. It must also include important natural, historic, cultural tangible and intangible heritage sites.
Geoparks have a bottom-up approach and encourage local communities and authorities to come together for the sustainable development, protection and education of geological heritage within that area. They are initiatives built from the ground up, encouraging visitors to discover and stay in the areas and increasing local jobs and income in those areas.
How does an area become a Geopark?
An area becomes a UNESCO Global Geopark firstly by having geology of international significance. It must also include important natural, historic, and cultural tangible and intangible heritage sites, and celebrate how these are all interconnected.
UNESCO provides a self-evaluation check list for anyone considering a submission to become a UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp). The next steps are then to 1) submit an application, 2) have UNESCO review your application, 3) host a UN mission in your proposed Geopark (i.e. have a site visit), and, 4) UGGp status will either be granted or denied. This process takes a number of years.
There are also other things to consider, such as is the project team multidisciplinary? Is the project active in the various Geopark networks? Is there a management plan in place? Are the local communities involved? Visit the UNESCO Global Geoparks website for more information.
I live in an area with UNESCO Global Geopark status, does it affect any planning permissions or impose any restrictions on me?
In short, no. UNESCO Global Geopark status adds no further regulations, planning regulations, or restrictions to those already in place by local government, national government or EU government. It is not a new legislative designation. It does not change or disrupt any current government farm-related payments.
Is a Geopark and National Park?
A Geopark is not a National Park, nor is it a stepping stone to becoming one.
What does a Geopark do?
Geoparks explore and celebrate the links between the Earth (the geology) and the way the communities local to a Geopark live on and work the land.
A Geopark provides a platform based on geological heritage to promote sustainable development in local communities, as well as in the education, tourism and agri-food sectors. They are initiatives, built from the ground up, to encourage visitors to discover and stay in often under-explored areas and increase local jobs and income in those areas.
I'm a farmer/ landowner, will people be walking on my land?
No. Having UNESCO Global Geopark status does not mean automatic access to private or commonage land. The Geopark staff will always consult and have conversations with farmers and landowners about this, and will work with farmers and landowners on how is best to highlight the local heritage.
If you wish to make your land accessible, that is your choice. You may decide to seize the opportunity to develop some activities for tourist or school groups, or to use the Geopark brand to help sell your products.
Geoparks support the 'Leave No Trace' campaign and Geopark staff emphasise that visitors should always seek landowner permission.
Once an area becomes a UNESCO Global Geopark, is it always a Geopark?
No. UNESCO Global Geopark status is valid for 4 years. After this, the Geopark needs to be revalidated in order to retain the status. This shows that they are living and continuously evolving projects, and it ensures that there is an international standard of quality.
For more questions about Geoparks, and more detailed answers, visit the UNESCO Global Geoparks website, or contact any of the Geopark Geologists from the UNESCO Global Geoparks found on the island of Ireland.