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Hiking in Forest

Ontario Trails ICD Projects

The Ontario Trails Integrated Curriculum Design (ICD) Projects were a series of joint community-based research projects and educational initiatives undertaken during the Winter 2021 semester by students in the University of Waterloo's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies in partnership with the Ontario Trails Council and trail organizations across Ontario.

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Winter 2021 Project: The Bruce Trails Conservancy

The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Stretching 900 km from Niagara to Tobermory in southern Ontario, it provides the only continuous public access to the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
 

The Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) is a member-driven, volunteer-based charitable organization committed to caring for the Bruce Trail and to preserving land along its route. The BTC is both a trail association and one of Ontario's largest land trusts. The BTC consists of nine Bruce Trail Clubs. Each Club manages a section of the Bruce Trail and is responsible for maintaining, stewarding and promoting that section.
 

The mission of the BTC is to create a permanent conservation corridor along the Niagara Escarpment that contains a public footpath. This was always intended to serve two purposes: to educate the public about the importance of natural spaces and conservation, and to save the Niagara Escarpment from the pressures of development.

Currently approximately 69% of the Bruce Trail is considered ‘secure’, meaning that it exists on land that is either publicly owned or owned by the BTC. The remainder of the ‘unsecured’ portions of the trail exist on private land (through ‘handshake agreements’) or on roads.

Project 1: Bruce Trails Conservancy Social Media Tool Kit and Best Practices

 

This Ontario Trail Research Project entailed Introduction to Tourism (REC 280) students working to develop a Bruce Trails Conservancy Social Media Tool Kit and set of Social Media Best Practices for Tourism in conjunction with Project Leads from the Advanced Seminar in Tourism (REC 480) class.

  • REC 480 students determined the best practices for non-profit social media engagement in tourism.

    • Topics included: social media toolkit best practices; hashtag development guideline; photograph, graphics, video and testimonial approval criteria; identification of popular and emerging social media platforms and trends; and, summary of social media metric tracking, analysis and interpretation practices.

      • Sample Toolkits by complementary trail, tourism and outdoor recreation industry organizations were also identified.

  • REC 280 students generated social media tips sheets for each platform identified by the 4th year students, created sample posts for each platform, generated sample hashtags based on the hashtag development guidelines created by the 4th year students and with topical input from Bruce Trail Conservancy Head Office.​

  • REC 480 students summarized the findings into a Social Media Toolkit and Guide to support policy decisions, and the development of a targeted communication strategy.

  • REC 280 students created sample visual assets (e.g., posts, videos, and infographics) for the BTC to share online via their website and social media to communicate with stakeholders, and which to use as templates for future communications based on the strategy laid out in the Social Media Toolkit and Guide.
     

Project 2: Effective Communication with Trail Users Literature Review

This Ontario Trail Research Project entailed Introduction to Tourism (REC 280) students working to produce a literature review and series of industry best practices related to effective communication with trail users for the Bruce Trail Conservancy in conjunction with Project Leads from the Advanced Seminar in Tourism (REC 480) class.

  • REC 480 students designed the literature review, including identification of topics for the review.

    • Topics included: effective communication approaches with novice, intermediate and expert level recreationists / tourists, trail safety, trail user etiquette, and COVID-19 and trail use protocols.

  • REC 280 students converted the findings into infographics to be be shared online (websites and social media) to communicate with BTC stakeholders.​​

  • REC 480 and REC 280 students were assigned to complete the literature reviews of specific topic areas and to compile a summary of the reviewed materials and a reference list.

    • Special emphasis was placed on locating examples of successful communication strategies, and sample communication pieces (e.g., signage, PSAs, social media campaigns, infographics, etc.).

  • REC 480 students summarized all of the findings into an Executive Summary of the media analysis into a cohesive narrative, as well as a Final Report, to support policy decisions, and the development of a targeted communication strategy by the BTC.
     

Project 3: COVID-19 and Trails Media Analysis

This Ontario Trail Research Project entailed Introduction to Tourism (REC 280) students working to complete a COVID-19 and Trails Media Analysis for the Bruce Trail Conservancy in conjunction with Project Leads from the Advanced Seminar in Tourism (REC 480) class.

  • REC 480 students designed the media analysis, including identification of focus topics.

    • Media coverage and emerging industry research related to: increased engagement in outdoor recreation (including hiking) during the COVID-19 pandemic, introduction of new outdoor recreationists / regional tourists to outdoor recreation and trail-based activities, COVID-19 and trail use, and OR / Trails / Parks protocols for safe use during COVID-19.

  • REC 480 and REC 280 students were assigned to complete the media analysis of specific topic areas and to compile a summary of the reviewed materials and a reference list. Special emphasis was placed on locating industry best practices (e.g., signage, PSAs, social media campaigns, infographics, etc.).​

  • REC 480 students summarized all of the findings into an Executive Summary of the reviewed literature into a cohesive narrative, and a Final Report, to support policy decisions, and the development of a targeted communication strategy by the BTC.

  • REC 280 students converted the findings into infographics to be shared online (websites and social media) to communicate with BTC stakeholders.

Project Liaisons: Adam Brylowski, Manager of Conservation and Trail, and Brian Popelier, Land Stewardship Coordinator, staff members of the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
 

Read the students' Project Final Reports via the links below.

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