Date of Award

4-2018

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography

First Advisor

David Lemberg, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Charles Emerson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

James Lewis, Ph.D.

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

Recreational hiking trails are a popular destination for local residents and tourists, offering health, educational, and social benefits. The North Country Trail (NCT) provides a unique hiking experience because of the many landscapes through which it travels. Because it spans across seven states in the Midwest, a hiker can travel through the mountains of New York, the hardwood forests of upper Michigan, and the plains of South Dakota along one route. When completed, the NCT will be about 4,600 miles; however, there are currently 1,900 miles of undeveloped connector routes during which the route is often located along the road. In Calhoun County, Michigan, the NCT is highly fragmented with sections of trail on the road. Thus, this research analyzed whether there are better alternative routes through the county that would decrease the amount of trail along the road. Focus groups and interviews were conducted to identify different interest group perspectives. These groups were experts, trail users, and businesses/organizations. An overlay analysis was performed on GIS to identify areas of suitability. Then, weighted scoring was used to analyze three different routes based on interview and focus group data. The Loop Route received the highest weighted score. However, it is recommended that the current NCT route be kept as the main route through the Calhoun County. Some minor adjustments would have a great impact on its overall weighted score, which would make it the best route for all interest groups.

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