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Paths to collaboration? A Study on Multifunctional Mountain Trails

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Publication Details
Author list: Godtman Kling, Kristin
Publisher: Mid Sweden University
Place: Sundsvall
Publication year: 2019
Number of pages: 74
ISBN: 978-91-88527-81-3

Abstract
Trails in natural areas constitute an essential resource in tourism as they provide infrastructure for both tourists and tourism companies. Trails allow access to nature and increase safety for visitors by guiding them to the appropriate route, where places of danger are avoided and the risk of damaging ecologically sensitive areas minimized. Even so, touristic activities in natural settings are today increasing and are more diversified as there are many ‘new’ activities becoming accessible for more people, for example mountain biking, trail-running and mountaineering. These trends and changes in tourism and outdoor recreation have resulted in an increase of trail-use, which in turn entails more trail-based conflicts. Conflicts occur between different recreational activities that use the same trail, but also between trail-based recreationists and other land-use interests. Thus, planners and managers of natural areas increasingly have to handle conflicts related to trail-use. Although conflicts relating to trails are becoming more common, research on trails as a conflict management tool is limited. Research has mainly focused on conflicts between trail-based recreation activities, and not on how the trail itself can be used to handle conflicts between land-use interests. As a number of land-use interests use the trail for various purposes, it can be argued that the multi-faceted features and flexible characteristics that constitute a trail can be helpful in handling such conflicts. The point of departure for this licentiate thesis is the assumption that trails in the natural landscape can function as a conflict management tool. Through the recreational trail, dialogue and discussions are made possible among stakeholders. Trails can therefore function as facilitators for communication, and thus enhance the possibilities of building trust and promoting collaboration between actors.

The results of this thesis derive from a case study of the southern Jämtland mountains in Sweden, an area where conflicts of interests exist. There are several different interests and perspectives on how the mountain landscape should be used, perspectives including those of tourism companies, reindeer herding, nature conservation interests and local population. The trails in the area are, however, important to all stakeholder groups, and collaboration around the trails is therefore examined in this thesis as an applied example where stakeholders communicate and negotiate.

Data for this thesis was collected by working closely with stakeholders in the area and by organizing workshops where different interests could meet and discuss issues relating to trails. Results show that creating platforms for collaboration and dialogue are important for increasing the understanding between different interests represented within stakeholder groups. Such platforms can therefore be highly valuable in handling conflicts regarding land-use.

This licentiate thesis contributes to increased knowledge on the multi-faceted roles of trails intended for tourism and outdoor recreation. This is achieved by the examination of international trail research to identify research gaps, together with the analysis of trails as a tool for collaboration and communication to handle land-use conflicts. The thesis contributes to the existing literature on handling multiple land-use interests, and adds to previous knowledge by taking on a rather new approach; that of the recreational trail as a facilitator for communication.


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