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Forest Path

Trails and Social Enterprise Research Project

The Trails and Social Enterprise Research Project is a longitudinal research project investigating how community-based trail organizations can function under a social enterprise model. This research seeks to identify key trends impacting trail use in Canada, and to determine what governance structures can best support and grow trails in communities across Canada as meaningful outdoor recreation and tourism resources.

Project Summary


The Trails and Social Enterprise Research Project explores the attributes of resilient and adaptive community-based trail organizations with the aim of creating a governance model for trail organizations, based on the principles of collective impact and social enterprise, which will increase their resiliency, adaptability, and capacity to respond to critical stressors like the COVID-19 Pandemic, historic barriers like under-funding / under-resourcing, and future challenges, like climate change.

The results of this study will inform the development of a governance model for trail organizations, based on the principles of collective impact and social enterprise, while fostering meaningful opportunities for engagement with local, regional and national stakeholders and indigenous communities in planning for sustainable trail development, maintenance, and management. This model aims to improve the resiliency, adaptability, and capacity of, and good governance among, stakeholder organizations within the Canadian trails industry and associated sectors while contributing to the long-term viability of the trails industry in Canada.

As a longitudinal study, it is anticipated that this project will have seven phases:

  1. Literature Review and Environmental Scan (Completed August 2021);

  2. Research Design and Ethical Approval (Completed January 2022);

  3. Data Collection (Starting March 2022);

  4. Analysis;

  5. Model Development;

  6. Community Consultation and Feedback; and,

  7. Model Implementation, Feedback and Revisions.

This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Board (REB #43602). If you have questions for the Board, contact the Office of Research Ethics at 1-519-888-4567 ext. 36005 or

If you are interested in participating, please reach out to us and provide your preferred email contact details so that a member of the research team can forward you the relevant information.

Interim project summaries and reports will be posted to the Publications section as they become available.

Phase 2 of this research was generously supported by a Hallman Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Health.

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