What is geopark?
Geology is a growing trend in nature tourism. Globally geoparks are very popular operating models in tourism.
The goal of Geoparks is to develop the economy of the area sustainably through geotourism. From the point of view of tourist attractions, Geopark areas can be compared to national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, even though Geoparks are not conservation areas.
Geological aspects also enable local businesses to develop new business.
Geopark status is a sign of local quality products for tourists in different parts of the world.
Geopark means appreciating locality
One of the goals of a Geopark is to support local residents to get to know and appreciate their local area by revealing the geological heritage of the area and by making it a part of life for the local community. Schools and other educational establishments and communities can use the contents of a Geopark in various ways for education. The goal is to increase the appreciation of the Geopark area both locally and internationally.
Geopark means international co-operation
Every Geopark is part of the international Geopark Network. Through the network, the geological heritage and local services in the Geopark area gain international coverage and visibility.
New development ideas spread through the network and international co-operation is possible.
Geopark supports tourism, business, internationality, education and research in the area by highlighting unique geological and cultural features and by caring about sustainable operations in order to protect the environment.
Applying for Geopark Network membership
Geopark membership can be applied for from the UNESCO. Every year UNESCO decide on accepting a new Geopark. The application process takes approximately two years. Following acceptance to the Geopark Network, developing the area is continuous, long-term work. The Geopark Network evaluates the operations of every Geopark every four years. If there has not been any development, the Geopark status can be lost. In this way the network ensures the functionality of Geoparks and the quality of the Geopark brand.
UNESCO Global Geoparks and International Geopark Networks EGN and GGN
The European Geopark Network EGN was founded in 2000. Its main goal is to help its members create sustainable local development with geotourism that utilises the geological heritage of the area. http://www.europeangeoparks.org/
The Geoparks of Europe also belong to the Global Geoparks Network (GGN). This network also operates under the protection of UNESCO.
The number of sites in the Global UNESCO Geoparks Network is 161 in 44 countries. There are two UNESCO Global Geoparks in Finland, Rokua and Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas. You can find the list of all UNESCO Global Geoparks here
Saimaa Geopark has sent a progress report to the UNESCO Global Geopark organization in the summer of 2020. A decision on the status is expected in spring 2021.