The Project Cabo Ortegal Geopark will live its most trascendent moment in a matter of days. After seven years of work and the designation in 2021 as one of the two aspiring territories to this international label, it will finally be between the 28th and 31st of August when the candidacy will be subject to a field evaluation by UNESCO. The mission will be led by the British Chris Woodley Stuart, director of North Pennines Geopark, accompanied by the Uruguayan César Goso, scientific director of Grutas del Palacio Geopark. Both experts designed by the international organism will arrive on Saturday, August 27th, and from the early morning on Sunday until noon on Wednesday, 31st, they will visit different spots in the seven municipalities in order to analyse the maturity of the project from the perspective of its geological exclusiveness as well as how the Association for the Management of the Geopark is basing on it with the aim to promote sustainable local development.
On Sunday, August 28th, a work meeting will take place in the early morning in Cedeira, followed by an itinerary along the coastline between Valdoviño and Herbeira cliffs. The program includes geological, patrimonial and development contents, such as meetings with the fishing sector, visits to the Océano Surf Museum and A Frouxeira beach -which at that moment will be hosting the Surfing Spanish Championship- or the visit to the Mares Museum in Cedeira.
On Monday 29th the visit will move to the inland area -San Sadurniño, Moeche and Cerdido- combining notable aspects of geology -the Forgoselo granite, serpentine quarries (rock known as “toelo” in this area) and the ancient copper mines in Moeche and Cerdido- along with the explanation regarding the material and immaterial cultural heritage which is being revitalised by the project in relation to tourism.
On this second assessment day, some meetings with local people and the sport industry will take place, and the UNESCO representatives will also know the Centre for agrifood transformation A Fusquenlla, and other experiences aimed to agricultural and livestock sustainability.
On Tuesday 30th, the assessment itinerary will go back to the coastline with a work plan focused on the traces of vulcanism present in Loiba and Espasante coastline (Ortigueira), but also to eclogite outcrops in Cabo Ortegal Complex. Actually, the Cape in Cariño, the area of Couce do Penido and the peninsula of Masanteo -San Vicente Island, are three of the Geosites included in the project. Geosites are geological areas of international relevance due to their exclusiveness. UNESCO establishes that, in order to become geopark, it is necessary to count with at least one of these spaces. In the 799 square kilometres of the land and sea territory of Cabo Ortegal Project, six of them have been catalogued as such by the IGME, and other two could be included soon.
Additionally, the itinerary will also assess different existing initiatives supporting tourism, culture and the educational and scientific promotion of the project. The different programs for the conservation of natural heritage will also be dealt with, as well as the importance of livestock, forestry and the transformation of sea products for the local economy.
On Tuesday evening, a farewell event will take place in the lighthouse of Cabo Ortegal, with the attendance of the local Major, as well as the other seven promoting Majors -those of Cariño, Cedeira, Cerdido, Moeche, Ortigueira, San Sadurniño and Valdoviño-, along with representatives from Diputación de A Coruña, Xunta de Galicia and the National Government’s Office.
On Wednesday 31st, last day of the visit, UNESCO determines a final meeting with the management team for an appraisal of the visit, in which experts can make various recomendations but under no circumstance advance anything related to their evaluation, which will be made following an ample listing of items regarding geological values and, more specifically, with the objective of meeting the sustainable development requirements in the territory.
If deadlines are met, senior evaluator Chris Woodley-Stewart and junior evaluator César Goso -UNESCO always sends two people with different degrees of experience- will prepare the corresponding report through September or early October. It will then be submitted to the World Geoparks Counsel, who will propose to grant or refuse the UNESCO Global Geopark label. The proposal must be ratified by UNESCO Director-General office and the ultimate proposal will be forwarded by the Executive Counsel of this organism dependent on UN, something which is not likely to take place before spring, 2023.
Expectation and confidence in the Management association
The arrival of the international evaluators is expected “with great illusion” by the Association for the management of Cabo Ortegal Geopark, as claimed by its President and Major of Cariño, José Miguel Alonso Pumar. “The seven municipalities and all the technical staff who have been preparing this project for the past years are facing this moment with optimism. There has been a lot of work in order to present a very solid candidacy”, he claimed.
However, aware of the high degree of thoroughness from UNESCO at the moment of verifying whether the requirements have been met, which would give access to the World Geoparks network, the Major of Cariño is cautious: “We don’t wish to fall into triumphalism, but we do have self-confidence and the certainty that we can do a good job”.
José Miguel Alonso underlines, among other values, “our exceptional and unique geology” to which we must add the landscapes, knowledge, culture, tourism, heritage, local products and services, as well as an integrated and integrating project of sustainable development” which the management association trusts they will be able to convey to the evaluators in only four days. “We face the UNESCO assessment with tranquility, with our feet on the ground, with modesty, but with the confidence that we can do something great which is destined to change the future of the territory”, concluded Alonso Pumar.
The dissemination of this information is framed within the co-financing agreeement signed between Diputación de A Coruña and the Association for the Management of Cabo Ortegal Geopark.