A Geopark is an area recognized by UNESCO Global Geoparks to have exceptional geological heritage. This simply means that the area has a natural landscape that is good for education, has a significant scientific value, is particularly rare or it is simply beautiful to look at.
Geoparks aren’t just about geology though, they also take in sites with interesting archaeology, wildlife and habitats, history, folklore and culture, all of which are intricately linked with the underlying geology. What makes a Geopark different from designations such as World Heritage sites is that they have a commitment to benefit the local economy. This is done by bringing tourists into the region, creating jobs and increasing the need for new businesses, all of which help create an awareness and understanding of such a wonderful natural resource.
Why is it called Stonehammer Geopark?
Our geological park was one of the first places in Canada to be explored by geologists. In 1857 a group of young men in Saint John formed the “Steinhammer Club” to explore the geology near their home. Even earlier, in 1838, another city resident Dr. Abraham Gesner began work as the first Provincial Geologist in the British Empire. Gesner opened one of the first public museums in Canada. Steinhammer Club members used Dr. Gesner’s reports as a guide to their work and later founded the Natural History Society of New Brunswick. Geologists have been visiting the park we call Stonehammer ever since and continue to make new discoveries.
The Stonehammer logo recognizes some of the many geological features of the park and the connection between people and geology. The central symbol is the trilobite in honour of one of our best-known fossils. Trilobites are extinct crab-like animals that lived on the ocean bottom starting in the Cambrian Period, about 530 million years ago. Steinhammer Club members George Matthew and Fred Hartt, and their colleague Loring Bailey found the first Cambrian age trilobites in Canada in the park in 1863. In the 1880s George’s young son Will Matthew found one of the world’s largest trilobites in the rocks of Saint John.
Stonehammer Geopark is about geology, but it is also about people, society and culture. Our lives are shaped by geology. Where we settle, the landscape, the crops we grow, natural hazards, water resources, climate, what we mine, and the energy we use are all linked to geology.
Since the days of Gesner and the Steinhammer Club, the rock hammer (or stone hammer) is still the basic tool of a geologist.